Reddit is cleaning house.
The massive collective of online forums where users have shared and created content, engaged in Q&As, sought advice and voted each other’s posts up or down announced on Monday that it’s revising its content policy, particularly in regards to hate speech. And as a result, Reddit is removing roughly 2,000 of its online communities, aka subreddits.
The two biggest axed communities include the pro-Trump “The_Donald” subreddit that counted almost 800,000 users, as well as the “ChapoTrapHouse” subreddit that was devoted to the left-leaning podcasting group of the same name, which had about 160,000 users.
The site noted that “the vast majority” of the 2,000 removed accounts were inactive, and only about 200 of them had more than 10 daily users. They include “DarkHumorAndMemes,” “GenderCritical” and “imgoingtohellforthis2,” according to The Verge.
This is notable because Reddit, which calls itself “the front page of the internet,” has been a refuge for free speech for the past 15 years, and now counts more than 430 million regular users on some 130,000 active subreddits.
This has led to plenty of debate over how much Reddit should police the content being shared, however. And controversial material has included the debunked “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, which falsely accused Democratic leaders including Hillary Clinton of running a child sex trafficking ring from a D.C. pizza parlor, and was discussed on “The_Donald.” Reddit had also allowed its users to share stolen nude photos on its site as recently as 2014, with then-CEO Yishan Wong writing that while “We deplore the theft of these images and do not condone their widespread distribution,” the site was unlikely to change its content policies at the time because “we believe that you, the user, has the right to choose between right and wrong.” What’s more, the New York Times notes that many viral Trump memes, such as “The Trump Effect” video in 2016, a parody of a videogame trailer that was used as an unofficial Trump campaign ad, first originated on “The_Donald” — and Trump himself later retweeted it.
But Reddit introduced eight rules on Monday that users and communities must follow to remain on the site, which now explicitly ban: targeted harassment; revealing other people’s personal information; posting sexually explicit media of someone without their consent; posting any sexual or suggestive content involving minors; selling any illegal substances; and more.
But rule No. 1 on Reddit’s updated content policy is “Remember the human,” barring users from “attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people” and noting that “everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence.”
“Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people,” said Steve Huffman, the company’s chief executive, in a call with reporters that was reported by outlets including the Verge and the New York Times. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”
An accompanying post shared on Reddit’s home page Monday elaborated that, “The_Donald” has “consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations.” And “ChapoTrapHouse” was banned for similar reasons: “They consistently host rule-breaking content and their mods have demonstrated no intention of reining in their community,” the Reddit post said.
This comes as social media sites have been forced to reckon with how they moderate posts and content that include hate speech, incite violence or spread misinformation during a presidential election year that’s also been rocked by a deadly pandemic that’s killed more than half a million people worldwide, as well as a reinvigorated movement against racial inequality and police brutality after the high-profile deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbury.
In fact, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the web forum’s board earlier in June, and asked to be replaced by a Black candidate. Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel has taken his place.
While Twitter US:TWTR has not banned or suspended President Trump’s verified account over his controversial tweets, it started adding labels to some of his posts last month to flag them as glorifying violence or to highlight “manipulated media.” Snap US:SNAP also announced earlier this month that it would stop promoting the president’s Snapchat account because, “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion.” And Twitch temporarily removed the president’s account on its streaming platform Monday over “hateful conduct” that was aired on the service and has since been removed.
But Facebook US:FB has remained an outlier, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg long claiming that the world’s largest social-networking site would allow speech from all political leaders, regardless of whether they were spreading misinformation or were problematic in any way. “Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg said on Fox News. But that’s led to a backlash, with advertisers such as Starbucks US:SBUX, Coca-Cola US:KO, Verizon US:VZ, Levi Strauss US:LEVI and Unilever US:UN boycotting the platform. But Zuckerberg switched gears on Friday, announcing that Facebook will hide or block content considered hateful or that could hurt voting — with no exceptions for politicians.