Reddit cuts ties with controversial trans activist after fierce backlash and protests
Reddit has officially severed ties with trans activist and former Green Party politician Aimee Knight after hundreds of subreddits went private to protest her hiring.
Aimee Knight, formerly known by her maiden name Challenor, stood in the 2017 general election as a Green Party candidate, winning 1.3 per cent of votes.
Knight was suspended from the party in 2018 after it emerged that she appointed her father David Challenor as her election agent, despite the fact that he was charged with raping and torturing a 10-year-old girl in 2016. He was convicted in August 2018 and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
She later joined the Liberal Democrats, but the party distanced itself from her when her then-fiancé and now husband Nathaniel Knight was accused of fantasising about child sexual abuse on Twitter. At the time, she claimed that his account had been hacked. She later moved to the United States.
Aimee Knight found herself at the centre of controversy once again in recent weeks after it emerged that Reddit had hired her as an administrator.
The furore erupted when a moderator on the UK politics subreddit was banned from the platform for sharing an article that referenced Knight. Reddit later backtracked and issued a statement, insisting that it had mistakenly banned the moderator as part of ongoing efforts to stop a harassment campaign against an unnamed employee.
Hundreds of hugely popular subreddits, including “Am I the A**hole” and a music subreddit, subsequently went private to protest Reddit’s hiring of Knight.
“If you’ve been linked to this page, you likely tried to view a subreddit that’s been made private,” a message on Reddit said, noting that users of the popular website might be wondering why.
“It’s because one of Reddit’s new employees is a close associate of child rapists and paedophiles, and the mods of the subreddit you’re attempting to view think that’s bad.
“They also think it’s bad for Reddit to be censoring any mention of this across the site, including banning people just for saying the name of said admin in a completely unrelated context.”
Reddit admitted it failed to ‘adequately vet’ Aimee Knight
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman issued a statement on the forum on Wednesday (24 March), telling users that the company had failed to “adequately vet her background before hiring her”.
“As of today, the employee in question is no longer employed by Reddit,” Huffman’s statement said.
“We built a relationship with her first as a mod and then through her contractor work on [Reddit Public Access Network]. We did not adequately vet her background before formally hiring her.”
Huffman went on to note that Aimee Knight had been the subject of both “doxxing and harassment” during her employment, and said the company has been working to improve the way it handles such issues.
“In this case, we over-indexed on protection, which had serious consequences in terms of enforcement actions.”
Huffman said Reddit gave extra protection to Knight on 9 March by “actioning content that mentioned the employee’s name or shared personal information on third-party sites”.
We are eager to hear what additional checks, balances and safeguarding measures will be put in place going forwards to ensure that this situation does not happen again.
He went on to detail how a moderator in the UK politics subreddit had been banned for sharing an article referencing Knight under those rules, and said they were reinstated following a review of the action.
“Debate and criticism have always been and always will be central to conversation on Reddit – including discussion about public figures and Reddit itself – as long as they are not used as vehicles for harassment. Mentioning a public figure’s name should not get you banned,” Huffman said.
“We care deeply for Reddit and appreciate that you do too. We understand the anger and confusion about these issues and their bigger implications. The employee is no longer with Reddit, and we’ll be evolving a number of relevant internal policies,” he added, before admitting that Reddit had failed to meet its own standards in its handling of the issue.
“We will do our best to do better for you,” he said.
Forum users criticised the platform for vetting failure
Some Reddit users were less than satisfied with the company’s response. One comment, which has more than 60,000 up-votes, said: “You didn’t, like, Google her name first?”
Another wrote: “Since your vetting process is clearly flawed, will you go back and re-vet all Reddit admins and mods who are already onboard, in addition to those future ones incoming?”
One Reddit user criticised the company, asking how they had failed to adequately vet Aimee Knight when they were able to monitor and censor all discussion about her on the forum.
“Did you never once question why they were being discussed? You don’t get to just sweep this one under the rug.”
The UK politics subreddit said it welcomed Reddit’s response to the controversy.
“We are eager to hear what additional checks, balances and safeguarding measures will be put in place going forwards to ensure that this situation does not happen again,” the moderators wrote.
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“Redditors, moderators, subreddits and administrators should be protected against harassment in equal measure. We remain concerned that some of these issues have not yet been fully addressed.”
The moderators added: “We respect that new policies cannot be put in place overnight – but equally, these policies should have been in place years ago.”
One of the organisers of the Reddit blackout subsequently urged moderators to open up their subreddits again to “show our gratitude” to the company for taking action against Knight.
Through the controversy, Aimee Knight has been dogged by transphobic abuse on Twitter. Countless “gender critical” accounts have seized upon her appointment at Reddit in an effort to baselessly link the trans rights movement with child abuse.
PinkNews has contacted Aimee Knight and Reddit for comment.