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Voat Inc // is a news aggregator and social networking service where registered community members can submit content such as text posts and direct links. Registered users can then vote for these submissions. After accumulating 100 of these "upvotes" on original comments posted, users can begin voting against submissions and comments. Voting is commonly called "voating" by users. Content entries are organized by areas of interest called "subverses."
Voat is "aesthetically and functionally similar to Reddit". The website is a collection of entries submitted by its registered users to themed categories called subverses, in what is essentially a bulletin board system. However, the two websites do have differences. Voat is written in the C# programming language, while Reddit is written in Python. Another difference between the two sites is a limit on how many subverses a single user may moderate. Reddit, while limiting possible "default subreddits" may be moderated to four, there is no limit on non-default subreddits. Voat, however, limits the number of subverses a single user can moderate to 10. Another moderation difference is the distinction between levels of moderators. A user can be "L1", who is the "owner" of the subverse and has more power than the lower, "L2" moderators. The option to have "L3" moderators also exists, though current site programming makes no distinction between L2 and L3. Voat also has a night-mode, which swaps its standard white design for a darker one; is mobile-friendly; limits users' voting powers until they accrue a certain amount of "upvoats"; has user profiles, which display user statistics; and disallows blatant advertising.
Founded in April 2014 as WhoaVerse, the website was initially a hobby project by a BSc student, Atif Colo (known on Voat as @Atko), who was later joined by Justin Chastain (known as @PuttItOut). The website has been labelled as an alternative to Reddit with a focus on freedom of expression. In December 2014, WhoaVerse changed its name to Voat for ease of use.
In February, 2015, following accusations of censorship on Reddit, Voat claimed that they had seen a “large influx” of new users, most of them from Reddit.
In early June, 2015, after Reddit banned five of its subreddits for harassment—the largest of which had around 150,000 subscribers—many users of Reddit began to create accounts on Voat. The influx of new participants temporarily overloaded the site, causing downtime. During this time, Voat had both its web hosting and PayPal accounts closed without warning. Its German web host cited "politically incorrect" content on the site and distrust of Voat as the cause; publications noted that Germany has strict rules for hosting services. The website continued to accept donations in Bitcoin, and was able to continue functioning, as it had moved to a different hosting provider. The website continued to experience downtime due to an ongoing distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, rendering the 700,000 unique visitors unable to access the site.
In early July 2015, following the dismissal of a popular administrator on Reddit, another influx of Reddit members registered with Voat, leading to traffic which again caused Voat to experience downtime. The developers of the website were subsequently approached by venture capitalists interested in investing in the project.
Also in July, Voat, alongside Wikileaks, was subject to a Bitcoin "dust" attack and more DDoS attacks. The Bitcoin attack slowed payment processing to the websites. The DDoS attack, launched July 12, was unsuccessful due to Cloudflare services, although it had the side effect of rendering third-party Voat apps incapable of functioning.
In August 2015, Voat became incorporated in the United States. Co-founder Atif Colo explained in a post announcing the incorporation that this was because "U.S. law by far beats every other candidate country we’ve researched."
In January 2017, Atif Colo resigned as CEO of Voat, citing a lack of time available to devote to the site, was replaced it Justin Chastain, who remains the CEO and operator of the site.
In May 2017, a site announcement was made releasing the text of an email purporting to be from a hacking group, giving the site 24 hours to pay a ransom in bitcoin or face a DDoS attack. The ransom was not paid, and no such DDoS occurred.
Voat’s Germany-based web hosting service, Host Europe (a precursor to Webfusion), shut down the service in 2015 and alleged Voat "was publicizing incitement of people, as well as abusive, insulting and youth-endangering content" as well as "illegal right-wing extremist content". Voat also had payments frozen by Paypal because of alleged “certain sexually oriented materials or services”. Voat has been accused of allowing users to create and maintain specific forums for the express purpose of doxing, as well as for illegally sharing copyright-protected material.
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