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In 2015, Reddit closed several subreddits—foremost among them r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown—due to violations of Reddit’s anti-harassment policy. However, the effectiveness of banning as a moderation approach remains unclear: banning might diminish hateful behavior, or it may relocate such behavior to different parts of the site. We study the ban of r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown in terms of its effect on both participating users and affected subreddits. Working from over 100M Reddit posts and comments, we generate hate speech lexicons to examine variations in hate speech usage via causal inference methods. We find that the ban worked for Reddit. More accounts than expected discontinued using the site; those that stayed drastically decreased their hate speech usage—by at least 80%. Though many subreddits saw an influx of r/fatpeoplehate and r/CoonTown “migrants,” those subreddits saw no significant changes in hate speech usage. In other words, other subreddits did not inherit the problem. We conclude by reflecting on the apparent success of the ban, discussing implications for online moderation, Reddit and internet communities more broadly.

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