Not to be outdone by the likes of YouTube and Facebook, Reddit has found its own way of sidelining and demonetizing content without actually implementing a ban.
Reddit calls this “quarantining” – the social platform’s communities whose content is such that the company would find it difficult to ban them, and justify the move – but which it nonetheless does not like.
Other dominant social media platforms have already coined an expression for this, labeling it “borderline content.”
One large community – r/The_Donald, that supports US President Donald Trump and has over 760,000 subscribers – was “quarantined” at the end of June.
Now, in an interview with Vox, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman spoke about the case and shed some light on Reddit’s policies around “quarantining” communities.
Huffman did not shy away from admitting that his company has deliberately vague policies, suggesting that creating uncertainty around what’s permitted, as per its terms of service, was exactly what Reddit wants.
“I think that room for interpretation is important. We have to adapt with the changing situation,” he said. Huffman confirmed that quarantining happens when “we’re not sure quite how to ban it yet, or how to justify this, but this is not what we want users seeing. This is not what we want to be representing to the world. So we’re going to put them on this like, list of sanctions.”
So much for firm and reliable rules that guarantee transparency and fairness.
As for the case of r/The_Donald, Huffman spoke negatively both of the subreddit, and Trump’s supporters in general, saying that this virtual, self-styled “never-ending rally for the president” community exhibited the same behavior as the real-life gatherings.
He also wanted to describe how the far-left views the community – and apparently, they equate it with the Nazis. But Huffman seems to think that subscribers and commenters there are closer to being committed to “pissing off liberals” – something that, he observed, is not against Reddit’s content policy.
r/The_Donald was placed in Reddit’s “quarantine” because a few of users “threatened violence against police officers in Oregon,” – and Huffman said he was yet to see a change in behavior that would lead to fully reinstating the subreddit.
As for what Reddit a “quarantine” looks like in practice, the company explains: communities do not appear on the platform’s front page and have warnings attached to them that readers must click to accept before entering.
Furthermore, as Reddit’s take on demonetization, “they generate no revenue, do not appear in non-subscription-based feeds (e.g. Popular), and are not included in search or recommendations.”
On the other hand, this half-baked ban at least still keeps users engaged on Reddit as it allows them to post, comment, like, and subscribe to a quarantined community.