Three years ago, a website was created as a refuge for the communities deemed too hateful or toxic to exist on the lenient-to-a-fault social aggregator Reddit. That site was a knockoff called Voat which was identical in purpose and design, only its founding communities were groups like v/FatPeopleHate and the anti-black v/CoonTown.
Last night one of Voat’s two employees announced the site is essentially insolvent and unlikely to exist for much longer.
In an announcement post, user PuttItOut—Justin Chastain—told users about the site’s skyrocketing bills. “In the past Voat has been lucky enough to be part of special programmes designed for startup companies which gave us free licensing on various products and significantly reduced hosting costs. These programs have since expired,” he wrote, noting that Voat’s hosting costs this month amounted to over $6,000 (£4,616)
Normally that wouldn’t be much to pay for a website with only two employees, but as Chastain notes, Voat has had no success securing outside funding. Ads only appear minimally on the site and Voat’s ability to raise money through PayPal was cut off in June of 2015 for “obscenity.”
It’s easy to see why: the site’s hardline policy on free expression manifests largely as communities advertisers and venture capitalists would be loath to touch, like TransPeopleHate, TeenGirls, YoungLadies, and StunningJailbait. Since Reddit’s first cleansing, Voat has also become the de facto home of other banned groups like celebrity nude hack community the Fappening, widely debunked paedophilia conspiracists Pizzagate, and the white nationalists of the Alt-Right subreddit.
“My memories are bittersweet when it comes to Voat,” Chastain wrote, “I’ve sacrificed the best years of my life for Voat, I’ve lost my business partner whom I miss a lot, I’ve lost people in my life.” One can only imagine why.
Of the many alternative, free speech-centric sites and social networks that have cropped up in the past few years, Voat was among the oldest and (presumably) highest-trafficked. It’s not hard to imagine a similar fate befalling the likes of Minds, Gab.ai, WrongThink, and however many other imitators trolls flocked to, only to realize there was no one there to annoy. Then again, the impending prospective shutdown poses a very real problem for current Reddit users, summarised by one r/CircleBroke moderator: “Please donate to them. Otherwise they’ll come back.”
We reached out last night to Chastain and Voat founder Atif Colo and will update if we hear back. Of course, this could all be a ruse—much like 4chan’s claims of being broke back in October— but according to the announcement Voat is slated to scale back it servers by half and begin turning off “some features that are resource intensive.”