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ONLINE forum moderators cause furor by asking users to prove they're really black.

It was meant to be a destination on the Internet where black people could let down their guard.

The forum, one of the many in Reddit, featured a feed of jokes and memes and commentary circulated on social media by black people, and comment threads where discussions could unfold.

A post parodied the discomfort many white people seem to feel with the phrase ''black lives matter''. Participants riffed in the rapper Kanye West's suggestion that slavery had lasted too long involuntary.

Conversations about topics in the news and and personal encounters with racial bias were interspersed with sometimes off-color humor about sex, romance and lifestyle advice.

Given that the vast majority of Reddit users are white, no one seemed to be under the illusion that only black people would weigh in. As one of the forum's moderators recalled, the thought was that the white users who held sway in nearly all of Reddit's 157.100 other communities, known as subreddits, would see no need to dominate this one.

The moderators were wrong.

It can be difficult to tell a person's race on Reddit. It's several hundred million users are known to one another only by their screen names, without the profile pictures and biographers that are typical of other social media sites.

That can be a boon to free speech, say proponents of the policy. It also encourages hate speech, detractors maintain.

In the case of the Reddit forum. which was called Black People Twitter, some of the comments appeared to be more an attempt to mock black culture than to appreciate it.

Many black users came to believe that white users were pretending to be black to give their unpopular opinions more credibility. Some of the posts casually dropped racial slurs.

Others repeated anti-black stereotypes about crime, parenting and intelligence. Beyonce was disparaged.

''These people are white,'' said Tony Hinderman, 23, a back actor in Chicago. ''Black people love Beyonce. There is nothing to not love about her .''

The weight of unseen white opinion also made itself felt through the Reddit ranking system, in which comments rise or fall in visibility based on users checking on the ''up'' or ''down'' arrows next to each.

A comment on a post about a first generation black college student'sentry to Harvard Medical School - you'll be attending thanks to affirmative action'' - received hundreds of ''upvotes'' before it was removed by a moderator.

In conversations about police violence, allusions to ''black on black crime,'' carrying the false implication that black people break the law more often, would float to the top.

The honor and serving of the latest operational research on Reddit, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Amy Harmon.


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