Voat, the abhorrent Reddit clone that became a home for toxic communities and conspiracy theories like QAnon, has shut down. Although the site has claimed to be closing before, this time it appears to be legit. When you type in its address in your browser, you are not able to access the site, and instead see this message: “Voat was sacrificed on December 25th, 2020 at 12 noon PST.”
Let’s be clear, “sacrifice” is not the word I would use to describe what happened here, which is no doubt better for the internet at large. Basically, Voat just ran out of money, and could not find anyone else willing to finance the hateful rhetoric on its site. Voat co-founder Justin Chastain, who goes by the username PuttItOut, announced as much in a strange and extremely creepy post earlier this week.
It seems that the problems began when Voat lost the investor support that had previously helped keep it afloat earlier this year. Per Chastain, the investor stopped funding the site in March. Chastain said that he decided to use his own money to keep the site up until after this year’s presidential election and is now “out of money.”
“Instead of feeling pity or vengeful, I’m instead going to celebrate the fact that Voat stayed up for so long,” Chastain wrote in his post announcing the closure. “In my opinion, Voat is and will always be the biggest dysfunctional family on the internet. Voat users were much more intimate with each other than other sites (chances are you have a handful of enemies and a handful of friends that you can list by name at a moment’s notice). Voat always had a better community dynamic than any other site on the internet.”
While the above might sound tame, in the same post Chastain compared Voat to a penis and said he was sure he was going to get hundreds of private messages from the hottest women on Voat with advice on how to keep the site up. He also said he had chosen Christmas to pull the plug in order to honor Jesus Christ, among other things.
Chastain founded Voat in 2014 as a Reddit knockoff focused on “free speech,” but was in fact a refuge for toxic and hateful communities that couldn’t exist on Reddit, including v/FatPeopleHate and the anti-Black v/CoonTown. And if that weren’t enough to repulse you, it also featured groups like TransPeopleHate, TeenGirls, YoungLadies, and StunningJailbait. Add in QAnon, has inspired its followers to commit real-world crimes such as kidnapping and murder, and you’ve got a hate speech stew going.
The site has faced funding and other problems for years. In 2017, the first time Voat claimed that it would likely have to shut down, Chastain said that the site had not had any luck in securing outside funding. Add that to the fact that Voat doesn’t have many ads—would you want your ad next to the content above?—and the fact that PayPal cut off its ability to raise money for “obscenity” in 2015. Voat also received warnings from law enforcement for the threats posted by users on its site.
Although Voat appears to be gone for now, its users said goodbye in just the way you would expect them to. According to an update by Chastain, users have accused him of being a member of Israel’s intelligence agency or a honeypot. There are no words.