Reddit bans 'involuntarily celibate' community

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Incels subreddit ban screen: "This community has been banned. This subreddit was banned due to a violation of our content policy, specifically our sitewide rules regarding violent content".Image source, Reddit
Image caption,
The /r/incels subreddit was banned on Tuesday

Social website Reddit has banned a controversial subreddit dedicated to "involuntarily celibate" men, known as incels.

The 41,000-strong community was ostensibly a support group for men who wanted to have sex, but found themselves unable to form romantic relationships.

Over time, the group became a repository of misogynistic abuse, rape threats and febrile discussion of "Chads" - men apparently not afflicted by incels' sexual insufficiency.

The move comes within three weeks of the website banning several other subsections, mostly affiliated with the extreme right, for hosting "violent content".

Image source, Reddit
Image caption,
The Incels subreddit sometimes went 'private', unavailable to the wider Reddit membership

From Tuesday, users attempting to access the subreddit - a self-contained community on the Reddit website - were instead faced with a generic message announcing the ban.

"This community has been banned," the message states.

"This subreddit was banned due to a violation of our content policy, specifically, our site-wide rules regarding violent content."

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In the past week, threads featuring on the subreddit have ranged from overtly misogynistic, to violent, to self-pitying.

"A reminder that no female has ever looked at you and thought you were attractive," proclaims one thread, a few lines above another declaring "women are horrible human beings in every aspect of life".

In October, one member of the incel group reportedly impersonated a woman to ask another subreddit dedicated to legal advice "how rapists get caught".

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Some posts on the forum have glorified Elliot Rodger, a man who killed six people in a 2014 California rampage after publishing a "manifesto" detailing his hatred of women.

It is unclear if there was a specific incident which led to the subreddit's closure, but the ban came after some users discussed castrating another user's roommate.

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Reddit updated its policy on violent content in October. Discussing the changes, a Reddit administrator said existing rules governing violent content were too vague.

"Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people," they wrote on a subreddit dedicated to updating the site's moderators.

A Reddit spokesperson told The Guardian: "Communities focused on this content and users who post such content will be banned from the site. As of November 7, r/Incels has been banned for violating this policy.

"Reddit is the home to some of the most authentic conversations online. We strive to be a welcoming, open platform for all by trusting our users to maintain an environment that cultivates genuine conversation."

Free speech

Historically, Reddit has tolerated publication of content which is offensive or discriminatory in the name of free speech.

But in recent years a number of high-profile subreddits have been banned, though a number of highly controversial communities remain.

In February 2017, the r/AltRight subreddit was closed. The community had been a key discussion forum for members of the far right.

In November 2016, a subreddit dedicated to discussion of the false Pizzagate conspiracy theory was also prohibited.

Earlier this year Reddit shut down r/Physical_Removal for inciting violence, such as promoting the use of physical violence against political opponents. The subreddit gained notoriety in the aftermath of a far-right rally in Charlottesville which saw a counter-protester murdered by a white supremacist.