Last week, a controversy ensued on Reddit when at least two groups linked to a video of a person who appeared to commit suicide. Once the media began covering this troubling video, Reddit removed the video on one forum, but it appeared on another. Meanwhile, a crucial question remained: Why does Reddit allow subreddits that focus on such grisly material?
One group, called “r/WatchPeopleDie,” links to material displaying exactly what the name suggests. For some, this may seem like a glorification of violence–which is against Reddit’s terms of service. The group’s members, however, consider the forum more therapeutic; the videos are meant to illustrate the fleeting nature of life. What’s more, many members have declared that seeing these posts, and being part of the WatchPeopleDie community, has stopped them from harming themselves.
WatchPeopleDie’s moderators informed the group this weekend that they believe the subreddit is about to be shut down, although it was still active as of Monday. The moderators are now asking for members to lobby Reddit to keep it online.
Thousands of comments have flooded the subreddit in support, and an online petition is also making the rounds. The petition creator writes that WatchPeopleDie has made many people “much more aware and safe, and made them feel good about how they have a life, and prevented several from killing themselves.” Currently, 3,500 people have signed it.
I reached out to Reddit for comment and will update this post if I hear back.