In the latest update on community news forum Reddit, moderators have taken new steps to clamp down on controversial and offensive content on the site: by introducing a new parameter of content guidelines.
Traditionally Reddit has always stood for a strong, almost aggressive, standard of free speech, with former CEO Yishan Wong stat that "This means we are not going to ban distasteful sub-reddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it."
The most dynamic and recent step, however, in an attempt to tone down the controversy regarding harassment on the social site involves the permanent banning of certain “racist communities” and other degrees of risque conduct. At least half a dozen “offensive” or toxic communities, mainly those consisting of racist commentary or “animated” child pornography have been “quarantined”- in the biggest single incident cull of problematic content on the site to date.
Many communities and conversations (“sub-reddits”) run on the site with the sole objective of harassing other redditors and, as current CEO announced prior to the revelation of the new content policy, these groups “prevent us from improving Reddit”. Therefore, in line with other platforms and sites taking controls against trolls, illegal and offensive content, Reddit have taken a productive crackdown specifically against “hate speech” forums and certain supremacist groups.
"Our most important policy over the last ten years has been to allow just about anything so long as it does not prevent others from enjoying Reddit for what it is: the best place online to have truly authentic conversations," Steve Huffman, Reddit's new CEO and co-founder, wrote in a post announcing the finalized policy. "I believe these policies strike the right balance."
Reddit has continually struggled to balance the important “internet principle” of free speech with the legal and ethical need to prevent offensive content appearing and spreading on the web. Again, not only do legal and moral issues come into play in these instances, but press and advertisers of the site often are put off by these factors too.
Reddit’s new content parameters now ban posts that are:
- incites violence
- threatens users
- includes sexually explicit content taken without permission
Content does not need to outright infringe these “guidelines” of acceptable conduct and content, but content deemed “upsetting” may now be “quarantined” subject to the new policy - and also tagged with NSFW tags.
This new step follows a highly controversial crackdown by former CEO Ellen Pao on five sub-reddits whilst in command - instigating a lot of anger within more vocal members of the Reddit community, resulting in vicious online harassment of Pao and powerful moderators temporarily holding the site “hostage”.
However, these new provisions have not been met without objection from users, notably given the slightly vague wording and implementation of the new standards. These guidelines seem to be selectively banning certain community groups and leaving other (offensive) ones online. The vagueness leaves the policy open to interpretation, specifically with terms such as “inciting harm” - asking users to “keep in mind the spirit in which [the rules] were written”.
Last month Huffman said that "banning is like capital punishment," a stance which has come to the fore with these new provisions and quarantines. "We take banning very seriously, which is why it takes so long for us to do it," Huffman stated.
“This is not the last time our policies will change, of course,” Mr. Huffman wrote. “They will continue to evolve along with Reddit itself.”
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