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The Redditors Who Reclaimed / Fat Pussy (and Other Vile Subs)



If you want to see the best of Reddit, go to / WhitePolitics, r / fagots, or r / FatPussy. You will not find sickos and slurs there-anymore, anyway. Instead, these subreddits are obsessed with, respectively:

In the past few years, Reddit communities once devoted to outré subjects, everything from InfoWars' Alex Jones to objectifying tall women , have seen themselves hijacked and replaced by tame, often literal-minded send-ups of their original purpose. It's very funny, it's very reddit, and it's all about doing a very good job. Their antics are easy to root for. What's less understood is how these individuals operate and at what cost. Trolling the trolls, it turns out, takes a toll.

First, consider classic trolling: the icky child. It takes time and organization, and those are its practitioners' greatest weaknesses. Sections on the internet, you can not spend too many resources in any one place. Far-right trolls, in particular, are notoriously disorganized and prone to infighting.

The work of converting those swamps into arable web-lands is hard-and-often deeply personal. (Though some mods say it's "just for shits and giggles.") The first task is identifying hateful subreddits, tracked at places like r / AgainstHateSubs. Once you find one, lurk on the threads for a while, getting a sense of who's there and what they're saying. But stay quiet: You might share an identity with the group the sub is designed to attack, so it's best not to attract attention. Then, you wait. Make sure the previous moderators have done so at the switch for 60 days or more and submit a request to make the new mod. Voilà. The subreddit is yours.

Drewie, who has been a redditor for more than seven years and moderates more than 50 subreddits, has always kept an eye on this. She's trans and knows the harms and humiliations the internet can bring. She has a string of successful hijackings to her name-communities like r / trannys (now about car transmissions) and r / dykes (you know, like water-retaining embankments) make up her kingdom. Her most recent conquest was r / Alex Jones, but the one she remembers best is r / fagots. Reddit's moderators: The deposed old-right troll king Milo Yiannopoulos had just requested control of the sub.

Controversy ensued, but with no opposition , the administrators would likely grant it to him. Drewie would not have it. Yiannopoulos is a Gamergate alum, expert at trolling the people they wanted to protect; r / fagots, she feared, would become another rally his troops. She submitted a counter request, telling the admins she planned to make the hate into something fun and satirical.

Drewie's vigilante tactics might be in the service of good, but they were pioneered by the very trolls they were trying to fight.

Since harassment and bullying are prohibited, Drewie promptly scrubbed r / fagots They are notorious for leaving moderators to scrap out problems on their own, no matter what kind of hate speech redditors are spewing-by making them laugh. For Drewie, though, replacing homophobia with piles of sticks is about more than the lulz. "I'm Asian, I have a middle-class job, I pass, but I do not know," she says. "I can not just sit down and say, 'Oh, I've got it good.' I have no choice. "

Not everyone sees it so unambiguously. Drewie's vigilante tactics might be in the service of good, but they were pioneered by the very trolls she's trying to fight. To Whitney Phillips, author of multiple books on online trolling, the anti-hate hijacking of subreddits most closely resembles the "RIP trolling" circa 201

1. "If, for example, a woman had been murdered by her husband, the troll would make a seemingly legit RIP page designed to get the most responses and followers possible, "Phillips says.

Over time, this tone-flipping tactic became less randomly malicious and more targeted. Before being banned from Reddit, r / antifa was not a stronghold of the controversial antifascist movement but one of old-right trolls pretending to be antifa in order to make the movement look bad-and-maybe-some-thing to a fake protest or two ,

Little about this would suggest that these trolling techniques would ever be used for social justice on Reddit. They rely, in their original conception, on mockery and exclusion, not acceptance and bonhomie. As Phillips puts it: "Why would any progressive aspire to something be so regressive?"

"Why would any progressive aspire to something like that regressive "

Author Whitney Phillips

There are two ways to think about that. The first is, do the tools work? This master's house is built from bricks of bigotry. According to Casey Fiesler, who studies online at the University of Colorado, ousting homophobes and white supremacists and purveyors of non-consensual pornography from their strongholds is unlikely to change their mind-and-some researchers of the internet just wants to increase their extremism. Many of the hijacked communities have regrouped elsewhere under a different spelling or a different name. However, you have to be deep in the world in order to find those new locales. Perhaps the casual searcher-the 14-year-old kid typing slurs into Reddit-won't expend the effort.

The second part of the counter-trolling moral conundrum is more existential: What do you do? wields them? "It's exhausting!" Drewie says. "I would not like to do this. You get no benefit, you just lose time." On top of a full-time job, she spends at least five hours a day scrounging Reddit for monitoring and monitoring the subreddits she's hijacked, and that does not even include peeking between meetings, during lunch, or on her commute. She thinks of doxing and death threats-inevitable in this line of activism-as "the cost of doing business." The alternative is worse. "I just get through the day by telling myself it's just internet trolls." But I've lost so many friends who can not take the hate, "she says. "I do not want to go to another memorial."

At times, the goal of these moderators seems unattainable. Hate on the internet is a hydra: Cut off one source and three more rear up. Nazis still post; cyberbullying still happens. And because these mods prefer to stay anonymous, they are rarely recognized for their work.

Observers like Fiesler say they make subtler, incremental shifts in Reddit's tone and ethos. "These people are signposting what it means to be reddit," Fiesler says. Even if you're not taking over subreddits yourself, 'hey, maybe we should ban hate speech.' " This trolls will not be able to dismantle the master's house entirely, but perhaps their efforts can be clear space to lay new foundations.


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