Wannabe Texas Bounty Hunters Stream into Reddit, but Reddit Issues Ban

A day after the Supreme Court affirmed the Texas abortion ban bill, bounty hunters are already trying to stream into Reddit.

Yesterday, we reported on the free speech implications for the Texas abortion ban legislation. The US Supreme Court effectively gave the law the green light, essentially overturning the 1970’s Roe v Wade decision for now. Digital rights advocates fear that this law would bring in a torrent of lawsuits for anyone so much as offering medical advice online. In fact, predictions were being made that this would lead to mobs forming to turn in people for the $10,000 or more bounty essentially set up by the law.

Those predictions didn’t need long to come true.

As we reported, a website was already attempting to establish itself in an effort to help people turn in loved ones and neighbours for that bounty cash. Two website hosting companies terminated the website so far (GoDaddy and Digital Ocean) for setting up a website designed to harass, intimidate, and bully others. Still, the website owners are going to persist until they find a hosting company willing to look the other way.

While websites are being set up, Reddit is also seeing an influx of users trying to establish bounty hunting programs on the social news site. From DailyDot:

The woman this man impregnated after they became “sinners in the eyes of the good lord” wants an abortion because neither of them makes much money, and the recent post says she scheduled the procedure “for next week.” If she is already past the six-week point, and it’s very likely she is, chances are high that her appointment was canceled due to the passing of SB8. Regardless, her hopefully one-time sexual partner would still like to know if he should just hand her over to the police.

“She has asked me to give her a ride to the clinic of the day of the procedure because she does not want anyone else to get word of this, and I agreed to,” he wrote. “Would it be unethical by bounty hunting standards if I were to haul her from the clinic directly to the county sheriff? It feels like a bit of a betrayal of her trust [but] at the same time it’s her body and her choice and she has made the choice to take life away from the living.”

It does feel like a “bit” of a betrayal of the trust of someone you put in that position to drive them to the illegal thing and then immediately turn them in for the same thing, but also, under the Texas law, he should turn himself in, too, for aiding and abetting the abortion in the first place. SB8 states that anyone who does so, including in the form of provided transportation, is liable to be sued for one of those sweet $10,000 bounties.

Although this story might be made up, and we all hope it is, healthcare advocate Kendall Brown points out that the very fact that forums like these are already popping up is a hint that all the grim warnings we’ve heard about how people will take advantage of this law for cash were accurate.

Now, Reddit does have rules about intimidation and harassment. So, it’s no surprise that Reddit has since banned the subreddit in question for violating those rules. Still, the fact that there was so much interest on day one of this law coming into effect does paint a very ominous picture for how much things have already changed thanks to this law.

Some in more traditional outlets might try and play this up as a social media problem. The thing is, this really isn’t a social media problem. In fact, Reddit did act quickly to remove such a discussion forum from its platform. In reality, it’s a human problem caused by humans. This wouldn’t have happened is Texas didn’t push this law. This wouldn’t have happened if the packed courts didn’t affirm the law, effectively ripping up the Roe v Wade decision. In fact, if the Internet didn’t exist, it would have only been a matter of time before people found other ways of organizing in this way in the first place. The fact is, these people (really, monsters would be a more appropriate term) would have taken advantage of this law one way or another. They just used the tools that were available to them.

At any rate, those organizing these harassment for profit mobs will continue to look for ways of establishing themselves until they find a weakness in the system. While some platforms may do their best to rid their platform of them, it’s only a matter of time before centralized places are established so they can carry out their terroristic intentions.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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