The Incel community has been a hot topic on national media since the Toronto van attack. Before the attack, the attacker, Alek Minassian, made a post on Facebook expressing his praise towards Elliott Rodger, a man who killed 6 people in a drive by in Isla Vista California. His post read “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”. This has lead many to believe that his attack was done with the purpose of inciting what is his idea of “justice” for the incel community.
Incel stands for Involuntarily Celibate, and their online communities are comprised of mostly males who are socially awkward or otherwise handicapped and lack sexual intimacy in their life, not by their own choosing. The media often characterizes these communities as being “a septic tank of hatred, nihilism and contempt for women.” The subreddit r/inceltears is dedicated to finding the most hate-filled comments and posts from these communities and highlighting them, such as the one seen here. Without a doubt, the incel community does not have the most wholesome connotation. The banning of the once largest Incel group on Reddit has been widely praised by many media outlets and was called for by a petition on change.org. But what does this really solve? The internet is endless and when people run out of mainstream websites to post their views on they go further down the rabbit hole to less well-known sites where their hatred can fester without repercussion. These sites are harder to find making it harder to track down people who do make threats online. Banning these groups from online forums only further radicalizes their members and discourages them from conversing with people of opposing viewpoints.
To give some background let’s go over a brief history of banned subreddits beginning with the infamous subreddit r/jailbait. R/jailbait was banned in October of 2011. The controversy surrounding this subreddit hit a high point when CNN’s Anderson Cooper dedicated a portion of his show to covering this subreddit. It immediately gained traction and the subforum garnered a lot of attention. Reddit soon took it down and later CNN did an interview with one of the moderators of the subreddit who is quoted saying “they really don’t care what gets posted on there until they get bad press.” And where did these people go? Even the worst of people don’t just disappear once banned from a website. They went where most exhausted subreddits are banished to, the website voat.co, a Reddit-esque site home to the many undesirables of reddit. I will not link to their new subforum because it is horrible, but just know it does exist. This community is smaller but still alive and well and going against all the reasonable rules imposed on them by their old host.
The most memorable banning in recent memory was the end of r/fatpeoplehate which was banned in June of 2015 for harassment. The subreddit made fun of people who were obese and had posts that would sometimes hit the front page. In its heyday, the subforum had over 100,000 subscribers. It was ended under the leadership of CEO Ellen Pao around the time a message was posted which stated: “Today we are removing five subreddits that break our Reddit rules based on their harassment of individuals.” The response from the websites community was dissatisfaction. Within the next few days, one of the top posts included this, asking about alternatives to Reddit due to their increasing problem of “politics and drama.” There was a huge backlash against Ellen Pao as many new subreddits were created such as r/ellenpaohate and r/f*ckellenpao.
A recent subreddit that has been banned is r/darknetmarkets. The subforum was established to give users links to online markets with “.onion” addresses which can be accessed using the “tor” network which is a network that allows you to browse anonymously using the official tor browser. Using these markets is simply a more secure way to make an anonymous purchase, which has occasionally led to illegal things being sold on them, but far from exclusively. It was dispatched last month (April 2018) after new guidelines were put in place that prohibited users from soliciting or facilitating deals involving guns, drugs, and prostitution. With over 160,000 subscribers, it seems unlikely they would not have found a new home at deepdotweb.com and voat.
Which brings us to the topic at hand, r/incels, banned in November of 2017 for “a violation of our content policy, specifically, [Reddit’s] sitewide rules regarding violent content”. Ironically, r/watchpeopledie is still up and running. It is also notable that the subreddit “theredpill” is alive and well despite carrying many similarities to r/incels most controversial posts. One post on r/theredpill literally has the title “Women want to be raped by a high-value man”. But, like most controversial posts on Reddit, there was a lot of voiced backlash and solid opinions on why this is wrong.
If one wants to fully understand why banning these subforums only incites even more extreme views and emotions, it is necessary to look no further than the Incel communities that are left compared to the one hosted by Reddit. In the about section of the incel Reddit community a post titled “list of advice” is included. Although the comments are dripping with negativity, the fact that it’s included at all is a good sign, even if only to highlight the things normally said in them. Included in this list are things like “Go to therapy”, “Don’t blame others.”, “Get out of your comfort zone”, and “Visit r/dating_advice.” Under the “rules” section it is stated “Any content that encourages a user who is suicidal to commit suicide or engage in self-harm will be removed and you may be banned. This rule also includes encouraging people to do physical harm to others as well”. Furthermore, there were no rules that one had to be an Incel to post or comment in the subreddit. Disagreements were fine as long as users weren’t trolling or brigading, and open discussions were possible which means resistance to misogyny was welcome and often present.
While over at Voat there is one, and only one, stickied (kept at the top of all posts) post called “Various Definitions of Rape” which includes such gems as this statement “There are feminists/liberals insane enough to believe Brock Turner raped some unconscious woman he fingered”, or that “females’ definition of rape is “sex they regret”. While over at incels.me the rules do not allow anyone that is not male and celibate to post or comment. In order to get an account, a user must check that you are not a female and give a two sentence explanation of why the user wants to join the community which is then reviewed to see if the user qualifies. Their site includes posts of self pity. A top post from May 7th is titled “Are women even human.” There is one about how pregnant women “deserve to fall down a flight of stairs and lose their baby” because “even then their pain wouldn’t come close to our pain”.
Without anyone to criticise them, these post-Reddit communities can go unchecked without any repercussion for the things they say. Being alienated often leads a person to dislike the people who excluded them even more. It inspires hate. When a community like this has no counter voice, radicalization becomes more and more likely. If one really want to prevent people from taking up hateful ideology, stop banning them from websites and allow them to have a conversation with an opposing viewpoint.