I was wondering how long it would be before I had to discuss issues at Reddit again. Over the past months and years, Reddit has been catching flak from the actions of its moderators, admins and from the corporate level. Yesterday the other shoe dropped when Reddit admins started to ban subreddits that the admins claimed were abusing the rules and harassing others. This has caused a tidal wave of criticism and complaints from users and some groups of moderators on the site, especially in light of the apparent double standard — and as we’ll see in one case, outright ignorance — when it comes to which subreddits have gotten the axe. Boards being banned is not the only reactionary clean up move that Reddit admins have engaged in either, deciding to votelock a number of subreddits including /r/videos and /r/pics.
These actions come after the corporate side of Reddit worked with various other organizations, academics, and others to start drafting new policies regarding harassing behaviour. During this time, Reddit’s actions regarding censorship of information and discussion of Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao, as well as the bizarre case of one moderator demanding a user write a 500 word essay to be allowed to post again.
Starting in the afternoon of June 10th, Reddit users started to notice certain “problematic” boards were becoming banned. An announcement was made that, initially, five subreddits were slated to be axed. These include the boards /r/fatpeoplehate, /r/neofag, /r/transfag, /r/hamplanethatred, and /r/shitniggerssay.
These boards indeed look to contain a fair amount of bigotry, but Reddit is showing a double standard in these choices. Subreddits like /r/coontown, /r/thinpeoplehate, /r/niggercartoons, /r/philosophyofrape/ and /r/cutefemalecorpses remain on the site. Even Reddit’s “Most Toxic” board, /r/ShitRedditSays, is currently safe from the bannings.
Even more curious, while those subreddits stand unscathed, Reddit admins have decided to ban a board called /r/WhaleWatching that was literally about watching the sea bound mammals in their habitats. The board is now just marked private, and we are reaching out to moderators of that board for any comment on this.
(Update: A moderator for /r/WhaleWatching confirmed with me that they marked the board private after being unbanned. The state of the board is now a heavily moderated one, as they are being spammed and harassed by members or /r/shitredditsays and /r/gamerghazi. More on this here.)
Banning subreddits are not the only emergency PR move that Reddit admins have enacted either. Various boards across the site are having their new submissions votelocked; where one can post links and submissions but voting has no effect on them. This appears to be a move to control the anti‐Reddit and anti‐Ellen Pao images, videos and articles that were being posted and making it to the front page, as well as inundating /r/all. Subreddits that are currently votelocked included /r/pics, /r/video and /r/kotakuinaction.
We had already noted in a previous article that Reddit seemed to be approaching a 180 degree turn around on it’s original tenets of being anti‐censorship and pro‐free speech. While we do not agree with any bigoted hatred from any source, Reddit is being a bit hypocritical in the choice of boards they are going after. It speaks to Reddit giving preferential treatment when boards that shame fat people are nixed but boards that shame skinny people are left. When some of the most offensive boards are remaining active and they votelock /r/pics and /r/videos, it shows that Reddit is not being evenhanded in their recently — vaguely defined — policies about the direction of the site.
This is only serving to fuel Reddit’s competition, like Voat.co. Voat was experiencing server issues yesterday due to the sheer amount of traffic from folks exodusing Reddit. Certain boards are being recreated on sites like 8ch.net, and some users even — albeit jokingly — mentioned going back to Digg.
While it is true that as a corporate entity, Reddit has no mandate to be transparent to its users regarding the actions it does to ensure “safe spaces” on its site, the vagueness of Reddit’s new policies and the preferential treatment in regards to which boards are getting banned are leaving users wary of who and what will be on Reddit’s chopping block next.
As users of the site have stated, the #redditrevolt has begun.