Reddit has banned a number of subreddits that are home to illicit trades and activity on the dark web. The subreddits, including popular subreddit r/DarkNetMarkets and many others, were banned from the platform after a drastic revision of Reddit's content policy.
Subreddits such as r/DarkNetMarkets, r/xanaxcartel, r/DNMSuperlist and r/HiddenService were all banned after Reddit took the move on Wednesday. Reddit announced the changes to their content policy on their announcements subreddit, stating:
"We have made a new addition to our content policy forbidding transactions for certain goods and services. As of today, users may not use Reddit to solicit or facilitate any transaction or gift involving certain goods and services," the company wrote.
Those goods and services include: guns, drugs, stolen goods, personal information, falsified documents and paid services "involving physical sexual contact."
These subreddits often served as a home for users of Dark Web-based illegal markets such as Alphabay and The Silk Road, alongside undercover law enforcement seeking to gather information on the users and growth of platforms like these for illegal activities. This often escalated beyond the shadowy rumour level of discourse – in 2015 Federal Authorities subpoenaed Reddit in an attempt to find out the identities of the users of such subreddits in a crackdown operation. Reddit has faced calls to shut down these subreddits before, but no action was taken by the site - which scarcely shut down subreddits at the time.
In the wake of calls for legal action against social networks that appeared to many as infallible, such as Facebook, it seems Reddit is taking preemptive action to shield itself from backlash over the open exchange of criminal information on its platform. It remains to be seen the impact this has on the use of the Dark Web for illicit purposes, but Reddit is done playing the middleman.