Reddit refuses to host Texas abortion bounty hunt

The internet is rapidly being forced to grapple with its place in carrying out Texas' new anti-abortion law.

AUSTIN, TX - MAY 29: A protester dressed as a handmaiden holds up a sign at a protest outside the Te...
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Reddit has wiped the subreddit r/TXBountyHunters from its platform, less than a week after the group was created on September 2. The subreddit dedicated itself to “sharing tips on identifying, reporting, and collecting bounty on those breaking Texas law TX SB8,” according to the subreddit’s description.

Texas’ new abortion law, S.B. 8, is predicated on the basis of the general public reporting anyone they believe helped someone get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Doing so is not only encouraged but motivated by the promise of financial compensation. Those who help sue law-breakers — including the likes of the Uber driver who drove them there — are rewarded with $10,000 plus legal fees.

The law is very much set in this basis of private bounty hunters being the eyes and ears of the state’s government. The internet, with all its nuanced, extensive networks, would be an ideal ground for organizing this kind of large-scale bounty hunt. Some of the internet’s most important keyholders are using their power to shut it down before it’s really begun.

Harassing content — Reddit hasn’t made any sort of official comment about the ban, and multiple news sources say the company declined to comment when asked. The reason for the ban is made relatively clear by the message that now greets users when navigating to the subreddit’s URL: “This subreddit was banned due to a violation of Reddit’s content policy against harassing content.”

Reddit’s content policy page is fairly abstract about what, exactly, constitutes harassment in the company’s eyes. Rule 3 states simply that users should “respect the privacy of others.” However, the example used to illustrate that point is telling in this circumstance:

Instigating harassment, for example by revealing someone’s personal or confidential information, is not allowed.

Organizing a bounty hunt certainly opens up the potential of personal information being shared in a public forum.

Not the last takedown we’ll see — What Texas is quickly finding out is that a large portion of the internet does not take kindly to bounty hunters. Last week, just days after being set up, GoDaddy deleted Texas Right to Life’s anonymous tip line from its hosting services. Texas Right to Life moved the site to Epik Domains — you know, the one that now hosts Parler — but Epik soon removed the tip line, too.

These removals have all hinged on the company’s content policies, specifically their rules against sharing personal information without the person’s consent. This is a rule commonly shared by most social networks and hosting platforms. It’s protection against doxxing. Even threatening to post that information goes against Facebook’s community guidelines.

As the fallout of S.B. 8’s passing continues unfolding in Texas, the internet will be forced to reckon with its place in this state-sanctioned bounty hunt. We’ll surely see lots more abortion snitch groups being taken down in the near future.