Reddit alternative Voat is attracting trolls
This is Voat - an alternative to Reddit that has a very similar layout and hardly any moderators, which is attractive to internet trollsVoat

Just when you were getting used to Reddit being the front page of the internet and offering links to all the worthwhile news in the world, as well as plentiful discussion, now a rival called Voat has come along to take its place.

In case you've been living under a rock over the last two weeks and haven't heard, Reddit, which has gradually become more and more commercialised, has experienced a huge revolt.

On 2 July, it was announced that director of talent Victoria Taylor, one of the few people to have a paid position with Reddit, had been fired.

Her departure caused a huge online protest to erupt, which saw 300 of Reddit's most read subreddits being made private for over 24 hours and forced Reddit CEO Ellen Pao to resign.

But the writing's been on the wall for quite some time, especially since Reddit began cracking down on subreddits where users posted "revenge porn" – sexually explicit images without the subject's permission – in February.

Thousands of Reddit users are now migrating to Voat, a Swiss-hosted clone with a layout that is almost identical to Reddit, which is slowly rising in popularity.


How Voat started


Voat started out as WhoaVerse in 2014, and changed its name in January 2015 to Voat, due to its original name being hard to pronounce and remember.

Created by Atif, a final year BSc undergraduate student at the University of Zurich in Lund, Sweden, the website was originally created as a hobby, but eventually expanded to become a fully fledged entity run by Atif and another student from his university.

Voat lists its site mission as being to "build a site that serves the needs and wants of our users; one that strives for quality over quantity, and doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator in return for traffic."

The website also stresses that "no legal subject in this universe should be out of bounds".


What can you post about on Voat?


Voat has been hit by DDoS attacks
Reddit alternative Voat has been hit by yet more DDoS attacks since users flocked to use its website during the Reddit lockdownVoat

Essentially, the website's stance on freedom of speech means that you can post about a great deal more than you can on Reddit.

While the website claims that it wants to make sure that censorship never rules discussions and links posted, this statement is essentially an invite to any internet troll who has been banned from a forum for posting content that violates etiquette rules.

"While we don't necessarily approve or agree with all content that users submit to Voat, our policy is to not meddle and not censor content unless said content is illegal in Switzerland," Voat writes on its FAQ page.

According to Swiss internet law, users cannot post content that incites racial hatred or discrimination, however there are no specific laws that legislate how social networks run, so users can only be prosecuted for flouting another law, such as invasion of privacy, or for distributing illegal content, such as child pornography.

Internet trolls tend to post bullying, sexist, misogynistic, racist, sexually explicit or politically extreme comments, and from Voat's website, it doesn't seem that there is any moderation, or even any volunteer mods, as the website is run by only two students.


The Pros and cons of Voat


An internet troll
Internet trolls find Voat's lack of moderation attractiveiStock

Internet users who don't like having their comments moderated often argue their case for freedom of speech using the quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it," which was written by British author Beatrice Evelyn Hall in 1906 under the pseudonym S G Tallentyre (but often misquoted as being by the French philosopher Voltaire).

Reddit's moderators are well known for subtly shaping the tone of subreddits, and so users who are on the far right tend to dislike the fact that their comments are not exactly celebrated, whereas on Voat there is no one complaining about what they say.

Of course Reddit argues that the Up Vote, Down Vote button helps its community to self-moderate and prevent truly vicious content, but if there are less people on Voat, then there are less people to get offended.

On 25 June, Voat reported that it was receiving over 700,000 unique visitors in a 30-day period. However, in the same month, its web host Hosteurope.de terminated Voat's contracts and shut down its servers without a warning.

The web host said that it terminated Voat's hosting because the website was "publicising incitement of people, as well as abusive, insulting, and youth-endangering content," along with "illegal right-wing extremist content".


Illegal content will be deleted immediately


Voat's creators also admitted on 24 June that they had been forced to ban four subverse sections sharing illegal content, including "jailbait" sexualised images, as well as an attempt to create the iCloud nude photos hacking scandal as a section called "thefappening", just like the original subreddit that was banned.

"I wanted Voat to be a bastion of free speech where anyone could say anything and open discussion could prevail. This is still something I believe Voat can be, but we need your help. To make things worse, we may be personally liable for the content you guys submit to Voat," Voat's Atko posted.

"I don't know about you, but I don't feel like going to jail just because someone chose to anonymously post a link to an illegal image hosted somewhere on a third party server. Because Voat is being used by so many people, the two of us simply cannot review everything that is being posted."

To solve this problem, Voat's creators will now ban all subverse sections that are reported to them which include links to illegal content, without going through a formal procedure to judge whether the content is illegal or not.