Reddit announced that they’re doing away with a number of subs and users who promote hate speech and violence. This comes on the heels of the news story that one of their users, an ardent Trump supporter, murdered his father.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Pro-Trump subs on the site have allowed and even encouraged violence and hate speech towards liberals, minorities, and anyone they believe to be their political opponents. Toxic users have tried to spread their hatred into other parts of the site.
Moderators of those subs have found little help from Reddit admins, who have taken a hands-off attitude towards that behavior. Every time there is a terrorist attack, racist users flood every story with hatred towards Muslims and immigrants, even when the perpetrator turns out to be a white person like the one in the Las Vegas massacre.
Now when the site admins say they will address these toxic users and their ideology, I can’t help but laugh and think it is a bunch of bullshit.
This is the statement from Reddit:
Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise, we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals. This applies to ALL content on Reddit, including memes, CSS/community styling, flair, subreddit names, and usernames.
We understand that enforcing this policy may often require subjective judgment, so all of the usual caveats apply with regard to content that is newsworthy, artistic, educational, satirical, etc, as mentioned in the policy. Context is key. The policy is posted in the help center here. (Reddit’s announcement.)
This seems like a bold move by Reddit to counter hate speech, fake news, and calls to violence – but it really isn’t. The site has been the home for right-wing trolls, sexists, conspiracy fanatics and racists for years. Every once in awhile, they announce what sounds like a crackdown, ban a few people, and go back to business as usual.
I’ve been active on Reddit for years under a variety of usernames. It has been manipulated by Russian interests to promote propaganda against the West, a scandal that was quietly handled by unpaid volunteer moderators in large subs like /r/news, and ignored by others like /r/politics.
Reddit has yet to ban /r/the_Donald, the biggest source of Russian misinformation and promotion of right-wing ideology which includes calls for violence against Americans who do not support Trump. They probably won’t, because those subscribers are very active, likely with Russian influence, which drives traffic and ad revenue.
I’m still waiting on them to address the rampant racism, sexism, and hatred on Reddit. It’s one thing to issue a public statement and kill off some low-hanging fruit. It’s another one to address the real elephant in the room. I’m not going to hold my breath.