Reddit’s most popular subreddits go private in protest against ‘censorship’

Image Credit: We Need Voices

UPDATE: Reddit has now confirmed that it has fired Aimee Knight from her position with the company. In a statement posted to the subreddit r/announcements, CEO Steve ‘Spez’ Huffman wrote:

“As of today, the employee in question is no longer employed by Reddit. We built a relationship with her first as a mod and then through her contractor work on RPAN. We did not adequately vet her background before formally hiring her.

We’ve put significant effort into improving how we handle doxxing and harassment, and this employee was the subject of both. In this case, we over-indexed on protection, which had serious consequences in terms of enforcement actions.”

You can read more here.

ORIGINAL STORY: Many popular Reddit pages have gone private today, protesting against what they believe to be censorship on the site. Subreddits ranging from r/Music to r/AmongUs have now become a private community due to their belief that the company is censoring mention of one of its employees, following the removal of an article mentioning former British political figure Aimee Knight (née Challenor) from the r/UKPolitics subreddit.

Over 200 subreddits have gone private as a result of Reddit’s alleged censorship, as communities with millions of followers have shuttered their doors for an indefinite period of time. When users attempt to visit one of these subreddits, they will instead be pointed to a message from user u/Blank-Cheque outlining the reasons for the protest.

The message reads:

“If you’ve been linked to this page, you likely tried to view a subreddit that’s been made private. You may be asking yourself “Why can’t I look at teh memes and teh cat gifs??” I’ll tell you why, young redditor:

It’s because one of reddit’s new employees is a supporter of child rape, and the mods of the subreddit you’re attempting to view think that’s bad. They also think it’s bad for reddit to be censoring any mention of this across the site, including banning people just for saying the name of said admin in a completely unrelated context.”

While the message claims that Knight supports child abuse, the former UK Green Party and Liberal Democrat party member has never been charged with any legal wrongdoing. However, she was previously at the center of two investigations from both parties, which caused Reddit users to begin questioning her involvement with the site after it was claimed that she had been hired by the company.

Reddit goes private following Aimee Knight’s alleged hiring

reddit is a private community

The protest has emerged in the wake of allegations that Reddit purposely removed a Spectator article from r/UKPolitics that briefly discussed Aimee Knight, who Redditors believe has been hired by the company. Knight was a UK political figure who was previously affiliated with the Green Party and the Coventry Liberal Democrats, but resigned from the former and was removed from the latter following two high-profile scandals.

In 2018, Knight quit the Green Party following an investigation into her hiring her father, David Challenor, as her agent. At the time, Challenor had been charged with 22 sexual offences, including the rape and torture of a 10-year-old girl. He was later convicted of 20 of those 22 offences and jailed for 22 years. A Verita report called the hiring a “serious error of judgement” on Knight’s behalf, though also found that the Greens hadn’t carried out proper safeguarding. Knight said at the time that she “cannot be held responsible” for her father’s actions and that she saw how her attempt to reconcile her relationship with him was “unacceptable.” Knight resigned from her post after being suspended, accusing the party of transphobia.

In 2019, the Coventry Liberal Democrats suspended Knight after a series of disturbing tweets were posted from her fiancée’s Twitter account, with the poster admitting to having sexual fantasies about children. Knight later claimed that her partner’s Twitter account had been hacked, saying that the tweets “were not his thoughts or opinions” but that she was unable to provide further comments due to the pending investigation.

The Spectator reached out to Reddit after learning its article ‘The Green party’s woman problem‘ was removed from the platform, with the outlet receiving an official statement explaining how a Reddit employee was the “target of harassment and doxxing (sharing of personal or confidential information).” The statement noted that Reddit had “activated standard processes to protect the employee from such harassment, including initiating an automated moderation rule to prevent personal information from being shared.”

According to Reddit, this moderation was too broad and led the article to be removed. However, Redditors are claiming that any mention of Aimee Knight on the site will now lead to users being banned. In a post on r/ModSupport offering clarification on users posting Reddit employees’ names, admin u/landoflobsters explains that it was not the company’s intention to remove any mention of Knight’s name, but that there had been “overzealous automaton” when it came to preventing doxxing and harassment. The admin explained that an internal error had led to the suspension of a moderator who had posted Knight’s name, and that the company had “communicated clearly” with the affected party as they resolved the situation.

Regardless of Reddit’s comments on its handling of this protest, the subreddits still remain private at the time of this writing. The site also hasn’t directly confirmed Knight’s hiring by name, seemingly due to its safeguarding issues surrounding employee harassment. We have reached out to Reddit and will update this story if we receive a response.

In other news, Game Grumps’ Dan Avidan recently responded to allegations of sexual misconduct. It was also recently revealed that Xbox Live would be undergoing a major change.