The Front Page of The Internet Sees Decline in Gay Slur Usage

Published: July 9, 2014

Reddit, known as the ‘front page of the internet’ for it’s history of birthing online trends, has seen a sharp decline of gay slurs in the last few years.

The study, Reddit and “faggot” usage, was conducted by Reddit Alerts, a group which monitors keywords on reddit for commercial brands to see who is talking about their product of competitors.

With almost 20,000,000 page views a month, the visibility, and impact, of a post or comment on reddit is hard to deny.

Reddit Alerts scraped the websites top-comment archives – almost 150,000 posts – from early 2012 to today. The data shows a dramatic* drop in the use of the words “fag” and “faggot” – a term often sprinkled into internet forums by ‘trolls,’ or other people looking to antagonize members of the forum.

The data is “representative of the community standards as a whole,” states Reddit Alerts. Interestingly, the study did not include ‘downvoted’ comments, or comments the self-policing reddit community thought were bad or inappropriate. This could mean the community itself is aware of the use of the word and is punishing those who use it.

“This might be a change in the demographics of Reddit or it might be a change of sentiment within all demographics,” wrote AaKil, one of the study’s authors. “Either way – the changing landscape is clear.”

Reddit admins, those in charge the free-wheeling forum, admit they do not track this kind of data internally, but Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s Director of Communications, said it helps quantify a trend they’ve experienced as well in terms of members of the community helping be more mindful as a whole.

The forum itself has taken steps to show support for equal rights with official mod posts supporting LGBTQ rights, participating in Salt Lake City’s Pride Parade, and even starting a secret-santa-like gift exchange based on equality.

“This support,” said Taylor, “stems from the fact that we at reddit care about equality because we value all our employees, and we care about equality because it is the right thing to do.”

Now reddit may not be representative of the entire internet – NBC reported as many as 10,000 tweets with slurs are used every day – but the reduction of slur usage could show a leading culture-hub on the web is changing its attitude, and influence even those casual viewers who skim the site daily.

“Over time I’ve started using the word a lot less, and I’ve noticed a similar trend amongst my friends,” wrote AaKil about his own connection to the word and the results of his study. “Part of (the reduced use of the slur) comes from genuine belief that the word shouldn’t be used. Another part of it comes from a growing respect for political correctness (or as some suggest – fear of its consequence).”

*originally ran as “alarming,’ was altered by editorial staff to clarify the drop. 

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