Racist subreddit thriving under new harassment policy

By banning only some of its hate groups, Reddit continues to lend legitimacy to threads like the odious "CoonTown"

Published July 9, 2015 9:30AM (EDT)

      (<a href='url to photographer'>Pressmaster</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
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This article was originally published by The Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Southern Poverty Law Center CoonTown, a vile subsection on the popular online forum Reddit dedicated to “race realism” and “the foundation of a proper society that lacks the negro plague,” is alive and growing in the wake of a new harassment policy.

On May 8, six days before Reddit announced its new policy to show a commitment to valuing “humanity,” CoonTown celebrated 9,000 subscribers. That number has nearly doubled since.

To put that in context, CoonTown had barely passed 3,000 subscribers at the beginning of this year, and new subscriptions in the weeks before rarely topped 100 on any given day. But with the unveiling of Reddit’s new harassment policy and the subsequent first wave of banned subreddits, CoonTown exploded.

On June 10, the day Reddit move to enforce its harassment policy and banned several groups, CoonTown counted 75,442 unique views, 321,968 page views and 2,090 new subscriptions. The following day, that number grew to 158,353 unique views, 869,236 page views and 2,183 new subscriptions.

The reason for the influx appeared to be a rush for users to show support as the threat of losing ‘Coontown’ grew. “FatPeopleHate gone, I fear CoonTown will be next,” user “The_Mods_Are_Jews” wrote. “Keep up the good work leftists, if you want to see a real fascist just look at yourself in the mirror.”

So how did “CoonTown” escape being banned? When asked specifically about the fate of subreddits such as “CoonTown’ or “GasTheKikes’ last May, Reddit offered an opaque statement to Gawker.

“It’s the same situation as posts in that every situation will be looked at separately and there are a lot of ways to view the content of an entire subreddit and harassment,” a spokesperson for Reddit said. “Views we disagree with or find offensive will not be affected. Posts that meet the criteria of harassment stated before will be addressed.”

But legitimizing views expressed in “Coontown” has historically come with consequences.

Last month’s shooting at Charleston’s Emanuel AME church and the revelation that the alleged gunman, Dylann Roof, was radicalized into the white supremacist movement online, brought a new scrutiny to online communities and the role they play in a person’s ideological evolution. Although there is no known link between Roof and “CoonTown,” the subreddit is illustrative of the immersive communities that exist on the Internet to introduce and reinforce white supremacist ideas.

Longstanding forums such as Stormfront and Vanguard News Network, for instance, have a long history of ties to violent acts. As for the place of violence and harassment users espouse in “Coontown,” look no farther than the racist vitriol that erupted after the death of nine Bible study participants in Charleston.

Posts like, “The only good n*gger is a dead one,” quickly appeared, only to be followed with comments like, “The n*ggers being goodified [slang for the murder of a black person] is good, but what is GREAT is that episodes like this will help expedite a race war. Only then will a great culling of the leaching herd will be accomplished.”

By banning only some groups, Reddit has continued to lend legitimacy to those like “CoonTown” that remain. And given the responses on Reddit to the tragedy in Charleston, one has to wonder what it takes for Reddit to see harassment for what it is and enforce its policies.

By Keegan Hankes

MORE FROM Keegan Hankes

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Coontown Racism Southern Poverty Law Center Subreddit