A reddit user posted the question “What popular subreddit has a really toxic community?” The poster went to bed and woke up to over 4,000 upvotes and 10,000 comments. Lots of anecdotal evidence!

Data scientist Ben Bell was intrigued, but figured there must be a way to objectively measure toxicity in what he calls “the darkest depths of the interwebs.” (Be still my heart! Anyone up to start a Hot Dudes with Data Instagram?) Bell started by defining toxicity.


Ad hominem attack: a comment that directly attacks another Redditor (e.g. “your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries”) or otherwise shows contempt/disagrees in a completely non-constructive manner (e.g. “GASP are they trying CENSOR your FREE SPEECH??? I weep for you /s”).

Overt bigotry:  the use of bigoted (racist/sexist/homophobic etc.) language, whether targeting any particular individual or more generally, which would make members of the referenced group feel highly uncomfortable.

But he also knew that there was another key aspect to reddit communities. How supportive are the members of one another? He decided to measure language that is supportive or appreciative.


“By measuring both Toxicity and Supportiveness we are able to get a holistic view of community health that can be used to more fairly compare and contrast subreddit communities.”

Bell pulled 1,000 comments from front page articles of each of 250 subreddits. He then used “Sentiment Analysis” software to filter the most relevant 10,000 comments total from 100 subreddits. He measured the upvotes/downvotes on each comment that was deemed toxic or supportive.

Bell found the communities where bigotry and ad hom attacks were prevalent, unsurprisingly headed by /r/ShitRedditSays. A pretty nasty bunch. However, he found something even more troubling – subreddits that were very high on bigotry but also supportive. In other words, communities where bigotry is shared and praised among its members.

Most bigoted subreddit of all? /r/TheRedPill

“A subreddit dedicated to proud male chauvinism, where bigoted comments received overwhelming approval from the community at large.”


In contrast, other subreddits had bigoted comments, but those comments were voted down by the community. On the Red Pill subreddit, the worse the bigotry, the more upvotes the comment receives. To put this in perspective, the Red Pill subreddit’s bigotry trumped:

  • Shit Reddit Says
  • 4chan
  • Justice Porn
  • I’m Going to Hell For This
  • Cringe Pics
  • WTF
  • Quit Your Bullshit
  • Atheism
  • Sex

Seriously. If you ever hear a man utter the phrase “red pill” with anything but disgust you are looking at member of the most bigoted community on the internet. A man filled with hate. You’d be much better off dating a Scientologist.