This week, Reddit shut down the subreddit r/pedofriends, a community with the stated purpose of creating a supportive environment for pedophiles who do not want to harm children. The board took an official stance against illegal activities and declared that it was not “a place to advocate for or describe child abuse.”
But it isn’t difficult to find now-archived examples of users discussing “relationships” with children or diminishing the negative impact of child sexual abuse, or deploying highly troubling user names, like “urdaughtersacutie.” And, following a flood of negative comments written by vocal members of the pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald, and criticisms that r/pedofriends promoted child abuse, Reddit shut it down.
In a statement to Vocativ, Reddit described itself as “the proud home to some of the most authentic conversations online” and added that the company strives “to be a welcoming, open platform for all.” But, the statement continued, “We are very clear in our site terms of service about content or behaviors that can get users or communities banned from Reddit. We banned this subreddit due to violations of the terms of our policies.”
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Reddit didn’t elaborate on how r/pedofriends violated the terms, but a former member of the subreddit provided Vocativ with a screenshot of an alleged conversation between a Reddit administrator and r/pedofriends moderators. The alleged message from the Reddit administrator reads, “We have done some really close looking and have found that people are congregating here and engaging in illegal activity in private. Essentially pedofriends had become a place where people are making contacts to discuss pro pedophilia idea.”
Reddit did not respond to a request for comment on the authenticity of this alleged exchange by press time.
In that same thread, an alleged r/pedofriends moderator wrote, “What do you think is going to happen if you shut down the most vocal opposition to pro-contact”—meaning those who believe it is OK for adults to have sexual contact with children—“and the most vocal support for non-contact MAPs”—meaning, “minor attracted persons,” since “pedophile” is meant to refer to an attraction specifically to pre-pubescent children— “on a very public site?” In other words: What is the impact of removing an online community for pedophiles who are against child abuse?
Similar comments were made by former r/pedofriends users after the subreddit was banned. “This is the worst part about it. Lots of meaningful conversation took place there. A lot of people used it as a platform to explore their most painful emotions and come to terms with who they are,” wrote a user by the name un-lovable. “RIP pedofriends. You were a great help to a lot of people.”