The cofounder and CEO of Voat – the ‘free speech’ Reddit lookalike – has closed the site, saying he ‘just can’t keep it up’.
Investment vanished in March this year, says Justin Chastain in a post on the site, forcing him to fund it himself. But he’s now out of money, he says.
“I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried prayer, I’ve tried reaching out for help. Some solutions worked for a little while but nothing has remedied the underlying issue,” he says.
While Voat initially launched in 2014, it really gained traction in 2015 after Reddit itself started banning offensive subreddits five years ago.
It welcomed content deemed too racist, far-right or otherwise hateful for its competitors, and has more recently been a haven for conspiracy theories such as QAnon.
However, Voat has faced difficulties from the start. First, its German web host, hosteurope.de, dropped support for the site, saying it would not tolerate any form of illegal right-wing extremist content (Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in Germany).
Soon after, PayPal also severed ties with the site over ‘jailbait’ threads sharing sexually explicit photos of children.
In his post, though, Chastain waxes lyrical about the site.
“Voat always had a better community dynamic than any other site on the internet. Considering everything, Voat was untouchable. There will never be another Voat and each of us had the opportunity to enjoy it. That’s awesome,” he says.
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“Another great thing is that we stayed true over here on our end. Atko [cofounder Atif Colo] and I never betrayed our users.”
Most Voat users are now likely to shift their attention to Parler or Gab. Both advertise themselves as being ‘free speech’ sites, with Gab having hosted anti-Semitic content from the start, and Parler appealing mainly to Trump-supporting conspiracy theorists.
However, Parler has been having its own problems lately, reluctantly conceding that some posts do need to be censored after all. CEO John Matze recently called for users to fact check posts… that spread viral misinformation’, and later added: “When you disagree with someone, posting pictures of your fecal matter in the comment section WILL NOT BE TOLERATED.”
It’s possible that Voat will reappear, with some users attempting to raise money to keep it going. However, with others now accusing Chastain of being a Mossad agent or intelligence agency honeypot, he may not be all that inclined to try.