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The Internet Communications Social Networks

Reddit Conducts Wide-Ranging Purge of Offensive Subreddits (arstechnica.com) 330

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Wednesday, [Reddit] announced a new policy clarifying its rules against content that incites violence. "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," Reddit administrator landoflobsters wrote. Promoting harm to animals is also against the rules. Within minutes, moderators started to ban a long list of controversial subreddits, including /r/Nazi, /r/DylannRoofInnocent, /r/SexWithDogs, /r/WhitesAreCriminals, and /r/PicsOfDeadKids. The bounds of propriety remain fairly wide at Reddit, however. Commenters pointed out that /r/WatchPeopleDie -- which is exactly what it sounds like -- is still around. Landoflobsters said that site administrators have "no plans to remove it for now." The self-explanatory -- and horrifying -- /r/CuteFemaleCorpses is also still active. Evidently, merely depicting violence is fine as long as people in a subreddit don't glorify violence. In practice, of course, the line between these things is pretty thin. A subreddit devoted to merely discussing violent acts is naturally going to attract people who like to promote violent acts -- especially after bans of related subreddits where those people previously hung out. Reddit's new policy seems like the basis for an endless game of Whac-A-Mole as the Internet's creeps search for new places to exchange disturbing content.
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Reddit Conducts Wide-Ranging Purge of Offensive Subreddits

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  • They banned some small subs, but left out bigger ones like communism, anarchy, hittablefaces, antifa, etc
    • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Thursday October 26, 2017 @11:36PM (#55442187)

      The Anarchism subreddit isn't a problem. They never do anything except argue about how to define anarchism.

      • Considering the sub has been purged recently, I don't think that would have held up a couple days ago.
      • The Anarchism subreddit isn't a problem. They never do anything except argue about how to define anarchism.

        Splitter!

    • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @03:37AM (#55442711)

      They're also following the usual hypocritical pattern of retroactively banning everyone guilty of wrongthink while allowing latestagecapitalism, anarchy, SRS and its owned subs, and the like to get away with posting a sticky saying "Guys no more doxing and violence, we're super duper cereal this time"

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Friday October 27, 2017 @06:23AM (#55443099) Homepage Journal

        This argument over the relative badness of one sub to another is just a distraction. It's one of the most common logical fallacies these days - "he is terrible, but she is worse," or "okay Nazis but what about these guys?"

        It's not hypocrisy to not be omnipotent and capable of evaluating everything on a precisely calibrated scientific scale and then enacting a mass cull in one single hit for maximum fairness. It's just the nature of large web sites with limited resources to do a difficult job.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          On the contrary, it's absolutely vital for the reputation of such a forum that they apply their rules in an even-handed manner.

          I wonder: if Reddit blocked the communist subs, but allowed the neo-nazi ones to continue, would you be so sanguine?

        • it's absolutely hypocrisy for very public subs and major multi-sub-spanning groups, with years long histories of doxing and long-term severe harassment and abusive behavior, to ALWAYS be given a free pass to continue their utterly toxic behavior because of their direct association with the admin staff. And there's nothing fallacious about pointing out that people who openly organize real world violence and supposedly intolerable banworthy behavior like doxing have constantly gotten away with it while other

      • If you don't like what Reddit is doing, and it isn't directly harming you, ignore it. If you want to start your own site with stuff I find offensive, I'll ignore your site. It's really, really easy to get set up on the net.

        Reddit has precisely no responsibility to do what you think they should do.

    • That's because these things are incremental. You start with the extreme cases to introduce the principle. Then it's just an implementation detail to expand to any form of activism or voice of opponents/oppressed/disenfranchised.
      So when more pressure is applied to Reddit,Twitter,Facebook and so on they won't have much trouble complying.

  • Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2017 @10:56PM (#55442071)

    OMG a business is doing what they want with their own platform as is there legal right! Cue the masses of idiots to defend the 1st Amendment where it doesn't apply.

    • Re:Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @01:08AM (#55442395)

      Sure it's their legal right. It's just that sites like Facebook and Reddit are the new town square. You know, the place the 1st Amendment said - between the lines - you could go to say what you wanted.

      Censorship got outsourced to the companies.

      • Re:Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @04:03AM (#55442755)

        So the way to get rid of the 1st amendment is to privatize.

      • Re:Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @04:13AM (#55442789) Journal
        A cookie for being insightful (out of mod points). I’m a believer in free markets, but I also believe that markets need some regulation to keep them functional, especially when it comes to mega corporations and monopolies or oligopolies. In this case I’d be in favour of a rule that says: if you’re one of the top 3 social media companies, then you are now a common carrier (or something like it) subject to additional rules, one of them governing what you can and cannot censor. In other words: free speech rules are applied and enforced on the largest public “town squares”.
        • by ChoGGi ( 522069 )

          social monopolies :)

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Reddit already gives you far more freedom than a typical town square. How long do you think you would get away with displaying pictures of corpses and remarking about how hot they are in real life?

          The system as it stands is fine. There are sites like 8chan, Gab, even hidden sites on Tor where you can say literally anything. It might annoy you that those sites are not very popular like Twitter and Reddit, but that's how ideas work. If they have merit they spread, they become mainstream, if not then maybe you

          • Reddit already gives you far more freedom than a typical town square. How long do you think you would get away with displaying pictures of corpses and remarking about how hot they are in real life?

            Isn’t that what anti-abortion groups do?

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              Occasionally, and around here they are asked politely by police to remove them and then arrested. In fact I read that even in the US it looks like a ban on protesting outside clinics is constitutional, because free speech has to be balanced against other people's rights to access medical services.

              I get it, they want people to see their important message about babies being murdered, but that has to be balanced against the rights of people to go about their lives without being subjected to disturbing imagery

          • As another person in this discussion put it: being forced off the mainstream is a bit like being allowed to protest or hand out flyers, but not in the town square on main street; you're effectively forced into a back alley to voice your opinion. And no matter how valid or popular your opinion, it is extremely unlikely for that back alley to become a popular venue.
            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              There is a clear difference between handing out fliers promoting unpopular opinions, and publicly displaying distasteful or harmful images.

              This is why laws typically do not try to enumerate all possible disallowed behaviours. It's a judgement call, with a legal system behind it for disputes.

      • Re:Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @04:35AM (#55442841) Journal

        It's just that sites like Facebook and Reddit are the new town square.

        No, they're not. Simple as that.

        If you write to (say) the Catholic Herald newspaper, you can't seriously complain when they don't publish your "the Pope is a Paedophile and the Antichrist" cartoon. Similarly, they are under no obligation to accept adverts from condom manufacturers.

        You don't have to read the Catholic Herald, and you don't have to visit Facebook or Reddit. It's not some Stalinist state controlled monopoly.

        • Re:Oh boo-hoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Voyager529 ( 1363959 ) <voyager529.yahoo@com> on Friday October 27, 2017 @10:38AM (#55444311)

          It's just that sites like Facebook and Reddit are the new town square.

          No, they're not. Simple as that.

          That's sort of the difficult question at hand. Do we, as a society, have a "Town Square" anymore? A location where everyone goes to participate in a marketplace of ideas? If it's not Facebook or Reddit, then where is that place? Freedom of speech to state the 'approved' set of ideas is almost as useless as freedom of speech limited to the middle of the desert in Nevada - technically accurate, but practically useless. The implication that Freedom of Speech was both the very first entry in the Bill of Rights, and that it was written under the auspices that it can only meaningfully be exercised in isolation, frankly doesn't make sense. Freedom of speech does imply meaningful access to an audience of some kind. Now yes, that audience must also have the readily-available freedom to not-listen and I don't think the Bill of Rights guaranteed a particular or captive audience, but an audience, at some level, there must be.

          If Facebook and Reddit don't want to provide a true marketplace of ideas, that's kinda their right, but the question is "should it be?". These companies have plenty of regulations. Their buildings must have fire exits, they can't lie on their SCO filings, and they can't physically beat their employees until morale improves. Adding a requirement to not-stifle the first amendment would just be another requirement.

          The alternative is the realization that we do need a town square, where nazis and antifa alike can make their views heard on equal footing. Usenet used to fill this job well, and I'd argue that it's still about the best system for this (or at least the best model for one), but it suffers from the dark side of the network effect. I'd also be in favor of some sort of government hosted public forum system, but even ignoring the funding and spam issues, it becomes a potential point-of-failure if it is ever manipulated by the government maliciously, and would lack accountability to do so.

          So, if the government is not going to provide a digital town square, and private industry can't either, then someone is going to have to pay for it, either through donations or ads, which brings us, I guess, to the NPR model...but NPR is far from a 'marketplace of ideas' as I have yet to hear anything on my local NPR stations that vaguely resembled a conservative point of view - or, for that matter, something that wasn't political at some level, unless you count 'fundraiser season'.

          The final option is that we have no town square - Freedom of Speech, but nowhere to meaningfully exercise it. I don't think that's something worth fighting for.

          If you write to (say) the Catholic Herald newspaper, you can't seriously complain when they don't publish your "the Pope is a Paedophile and the Antichrist" cartoon. Similarly, they are under no obligation to accept adverts from condom manufacturers.

          You don't have to read the Catholic Herald, and you don't have to visit Facebook or Reddit. It's not some Stalinist state controlled monopoly.

          First off, the Catholic Herald does not have nearly the same userbase as Reddit. Second, the Catholic Herald is not understood to be a publication whose primary content is user-submitted. On the contrary, it is a topical periodical with editors and writers intended for a specific audience. Anyone reading it will assume it has gone through an editor who made choices as to what was deemed the most desirable content to distribute, a far cry from the community-driven aspects which are a primary feature of both Reddit and Facebook. Nobody would expect the Catholic Herald to publish an article called "the pope is a pedophile", and arguably /r/catholic probably wouldn't either as a function of the individual moderators on that subreddit....but are we ultimately arguing that there should be nowhere on Reddit that such an article *could* be posted? I'm not arguing for the front page, nor am I arguing for /r/sldkgfnw (the equivalent of the Nevada desert), but I am arguing that there does need to be a place for it.

      • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

        No, no there not. They're commercial social spaces created to make money. They are owned wholly and fully by said companies.The companies can do whatever they want with them, including censoring. They can make them whites only, blacks only, jews only, etc. There are no laws anywhere stating otherwise.

        It doesn't matter what you think. Until the laws change, facebook and other such sites can do whatever they want with their sites.

        • They can make them whites only, blacks only, jews only, etc. There are no laws anywhere stating otherwise.

          Yeah, there are. Just like I can't open a restaurant and put a "No Blacks" sign on the door.

        • by Megol ( 3135005 )

          Your understanding of the (US) laws is severely lacking. While creating group discriminating non-protected groups would be allowed (with some limitations) discriminating of protected groups would not.

      • No, the internet is the town hall. There are no barriers to setting up your own booth in it. Facebook, etc are more akin to taverns and the barkeep always reserves the right to control the conversation to keep the peace.
      • You couldn't incite violence in the town square either without getting arrested.

        There's nothing different here. Right down to the fact that after the "censorship," people whining about it will ignore the fact that calls to violence was the issue, not "I dislike your message."
  • *cough* #realDonaldTrump *cough*
  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @12:52AM (#55442357)

    Nope. Not a single one. I am not clicking any link associated with story!

  • the more fun the freedom of speech supporting US competition attracts.
    If a site just wants to offer government policy, political press conferences, positive big studio movie review, tourism news..

    Whats the point of using a social media site if people don't get to comment on policy, movies, news, history, music, arts, culture, sports?

    Users have to stay 100 % positive in how they write about a movie?
    Freedom of speech, freedom after speech is what made the internet fun and allowed some US sites to keep
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      That's not really the case here - this isn't about writing about a movie, this is about Nazis and white supremacists spreading hatred and propaganda. Nice strawman though
  • I miss Usenet. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @01:30AM (#55442437) Homepage Journal

    Other than spammers, nobody bothered us when we used alt.binaries.pictures.grotesque for this purpose.

    For the record, I was in no way responsible for the "Di Death Pic" hoax... but I know who was, an a.b.p.g regular. It was an accidental hoax anyhow, it was not meant to be taken seriously. We didn't know lurkers would forward it without the disclaimer.

  • More accurate: "Reddit makes the news because some crazy The_Donald lunatic killed his dad. As a response, Reddit decided to close down several (but totally unrelated) subreddits... again"

    Seems to happen every 2 or 3 years. Nothing new here.
  • two thoughts: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @07:38AM (#55443297)

    Reddit's new policy seems like the basis for an endless game of Whac-A-Mole as the Internet's creeps search for new places to exchange disturbing content.

    1. The folks interested in these things will definitely find other places to congregate, but here's the key: possibly not at reddit. Which is reddit's goal.

    2. In terms of it being Whac-a-Mole, it shouldn't be too hard if they implement a user-based reporting / flagging system. Let your users flag suspect subreddits, then every day a reddit employee looks at the top few "most redported" and determines if they meet the criteria for removal. Users who abuse the flagging system lose the ability to flag.

  • I adblock reddit.

  • Lawful speech people don't like is still free speech.

    Announcing a new policy is fine.... disrupting communities and purging content within hours of the announcement is not.
    The proper thing is to allow those subs time to modify their rules and require submissions to conform to the new policies or
    decide to move elsewhere WITH REASONABLE NOTICE, As in 30 days notice, not 5 minutes notice.

  • by e432776 ( 4495975 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @10:51AM (#55444419)
    Its been interesting to read that apparently some of the limits reddit instituted last time (amid much controversy and gnashing of teeth) were in reducing hate speech. [techcrunch.com]

    The take-home to me is that groups online should define and enforce their standards; doing so will determine what sort of people participate and whether the site is a "cess pool". Seems obvious now.
  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Friday October 27, 2017 @02:58PM (#55446573)

    Good job Reddit, that'll really give those NAZI's a black eye. ....wait.

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