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Free Speech-Friendly Reddit Alternative Voat Incorporates in the U.S.

Voat, the link-sharing site which enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence as a destination for aggrieved Reddit users during the “Reddit Revolts” is now incorporated in the United States.

In the words of its Swiss founder, Atif Colo, the site has moved beyond the status of “student side-project.”

Voat places a strong emphasis on free speech within the law, and Colo specifically cited the First Amendment as the reason for seeking incorporation in the U.S. In an announcement, Colo explained his reasoning and reflected on Voat’s rocky period of rapid growth.

We’ve been through a lot lately: our servers got shut down, PayPal froze our donation funds, our servers were hit with several sustained DDoS attacks and even our bitcoin wallet, along with the wallet of Wikileaks was hit with a dust attack…

We received many donations via Bitcoin and Dogecoin and these will help pay for our biggest hosting bill in history of Voat. We’ve also received hundreds and hundreds of emails from people willing to donate and help support Voat, asking about alternative ways to donate as they find crypto currency to be a hassle to use.

For the last 2 years, Voat has been just a student side project. That left us open to personal liability and headaches in the long run. As of today, Voat Voat, Inc. is no longer a student side project but a corporation registered in the U.S.

Why the U.S.? Switzerland seemed like a great option in the beginning, but when it comes to freedom of speech, the main idea behind Voat, U.S. law by far beats every other candidate country we’ve researched. The First Amendment is very clear about this:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

(Read the full post here.)

Voat became the destination of choice for ex-Redditors who abandoned the site en masse during the “Reddit Revolts,” a series of user rebellions against the site owners triggered by perceptions of censoriousness, and poor communication between the company and its volunteer moderators. Although there were other Reddit competitors, it was Voat, with its user-friendly design and unflinching commitment to free speech, that came out on top.

The site’s period of rapid growth was marred by problems. It was denied funds by PayPal after opponents of the site’s free speech policies falsely reported it for child pornography, which is banned on the site. Its German hosting provider, HostEurope.de, also terminated their contract with the website on the grounds that its content was too “politically incorrect.

Voat was also a victim of its own success; the site received so much traffic during the Reddit Revolts that its servers proved unable to cope. The site remained offline for much of the period and eventually switched to an invite-only registration model to keep traffic down.

In a post two weeks ago, Colo described the sheer scale of Voat’s growth:

Voat’s growth is exponential. From Alexa rankings, to http requests, to user accounts, and database size, everything at Voat is growing fast; perhaps a bit too fast for two guys with full time jobs. ;)

Relative growth related metrics (Since TheFattening):

Our hosting costs at Voat have increased by 12,143% per month
Our database size has increased by 761%
Our user count has increased by 636%
Our CDN has reduced site data by 1.5 TB in the last 24 hours
We’ve dealt with over 5 million requests per hour at our peak

(Read the full post here.)

Despite these problems, there are signs that Voat is professionalizing its operation. Voat was approached by venture capitalists during the second Reddit Revolt, and Colo hopes that incorporation will open up more funding options. Server capacity remains the site’s biggest challenge — once that issue is fixed, the site will be well placed to take advantage of the growing market for free speech-friendly platforms.

Follow Allum Bokhari @LibertarianBlue on Twitter 

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