Voat was designed as a substitute for Reddit: At time when Reddit is getting criticized for scrubbing “problematic” comments and conversations, Voat was supposed to a freer-speech alternative.
But now it may be shutting down because of financial difficulties. The site racked up $6,600 in hosting costs in April. Donations, advertisements and merchandise “only put a dent” in the costs, and the company doesn’t feel comfortable running a donation campaign to help. Voat has been unable to secure outside funding and struggles with accepting donations after PayPal cut it off for hosting “obscene” content.
Posting under username PuttItOut, Voat co-founder Justin Chastain put out a call for help Wednesday. After relaying some history about the creation of Voat, Chastain wrote:
I am powerless to keep Voat running without financial support. As of right now Voat has no solid commitments. Voat has always needed a financial partner whom had balls of steel and backing deep enough to give Voat the capabilities to run as an actual business (being able to hire staff and set itself apart from its competitors), not just a one man show. Potential investors have one or the other of these traits, but we have yet to find one with both. In this day and age, this is Voat’s unicorn.
Chastain offered no specific timeline for when possible closure might happen. “I have too much invested in this place to give up just yet, so I cannot provide any timelines. In the meantime, I will soon be scaling back all Voat’s servers by at least 50%. I will also turn off some features that are resource intensive,” he wrote.
Founded by Atif Colo and Chastain, the site has made good on its word to allow communities like v/FatPeopleHate (hosting over 34,000 subscribers) to exist. Much less popular is its now defunct v/Coontown subverse, which only hosts 3,500 subscribers—most of whom stopped using it almost two years ago. Voat has about 70,000 users overall.
It’s understandable why the site would have difficulty finding advertisers and sponsors—its commitment to free speech forces it to host communities Reddit banned years ago, including v/TransPeopleHate and v/StunningJailBait. Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong insisted on maintaining similar communities until media coverage by sites like Gawker and fear of losing corporate advertisers drove it to implement strict speech policies. Interestingly, Reddit still maintains r/Anarchism, a community linked to Antifa violence.
“My memories are bittersweet when it comes to Voat,” wrote Chastain. “I’ve sacrificed the best years of my life for Voat, I’ve lost my business partner whom I miss a lot, I’ve lost people in my life, I’ve given up golf, which was my passion, and even with all this I still believe in Voat. I still see the dire need for Free Speech in this world, I fear a world without it, and I still will do anything I can to continue providing it.”
Dubbed the “Front Page of the Internet,” Reddit has seen very little competition in the years since its founding. Following the death of Digg, Reddit became the de facto news aggregator—a position that was threatened somewhat three years ago when the site cracked down on politically incorrect communities.