Reddit, the angry internet's most favored bulletin board and scream chamber, announced late Wednesday that they were taking a new if extremely belated stand against hate, white supremacy, and violence. In updating their policy on violence, the company took sweeping action to shut down subreddits and instruct moderators to ban all material that "encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people."
The statement went up on the site's moderator forum earlier Wednesday, and later in the day, as The Verge notes, multiple subreddits began disappearing including r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, and r/DylannRoofInnocent. Per CNet, other subreddits that are now dunzo include r/EuropeanNationalism and r/far_right, and racist-based subreddits such as r/racoonsareni**ers and r/whitesarecriminals.
"We also are making this update so that Reddit’s content policy better reflects our values as a company," writes moderator Landoflobsters. "In particular, we found that the policy regarding 'inciting' violence was too vague, and so we have made an effort to adjust it to be more clear and comprehensive." In addition to taking action against content that incites violence against people, the moderator adds, "likewise, we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals."
This is the second purge in the last two months at Reddit, following some post-Charlottesville
actions taken to shut down the subreddit known as r/Physical_Removal in August after users there were making light of or glorifying the death of Heather Heyer. However this time Reddit is taking a broader stand against all hate speech that encourages violence.
The site was founded in 2005 and quickly grew into the low-tech, high-engagement, anything-goes news-sharing and discussion-board hub that it is now. It would be another decade, however, as CNet notes, before Reddit would officially establish its first real, if vague, policy against bullying and hateful content just a week after the short tenure of Ellen Pao as CEO, who made a prescient statement as she stepped down following a backlash against her own attempts to stop harassment and tamp down the chaos: "The trolls are winning."
Then, in the wake of the 2016 election, CEO Steve Huffman made another move to crack down on the site's "most toxic" trolls, though that did nothing to stop neo-Nazis and others from continuing to flourish in the site's many angrier corners.
Proponents of "free speech" on the internet have long looked to places like Reddit and Twitter as havens for the ability to talk openly about their own racism, sexism, and homophobia, if not their outright hopes committing acts of violence against any member of a group they hate. The platforms have come around in the past year to understand the role that their lack of rules has played in the coarsening of the culture, and in the incitement of actual, real-world violence, as they arguably did in Charlottesville.
As the NY Daily News reports, Reddit has responded to some Redditors' confusion over the new policy saying that topics like BDSM and hunting won't be affected, even if these could be arguably seen as areas where violence against people and animals will be discussed.
"Context is key," says Landoflobsters, pointing to this new page in the site's Help section, encouraging users to provide context whenever posting anything that could be viewed as violent. Also, the instructions say, "If your content is borderline, please use a NSFW tag. Even mild violence can be difficult for someone to explain to others if they open it unexpectedly."
Previously: Reddit And Facebook Ban Neo-Nazi/Hate Groups