Reddit sells itself as the “front page of the internet,” but there have also been those willing to describe it as “the cesspool of the internet.” Some do it because they don’t like the original nature of the platform (that’s been undergoing major changes for a while now); others, because they’re sick and tired of those growing restrictions that at times manifest as blatant censorship.
You’d think Reddit would be the last to agree with such scathing comments about itself, but it’s not evident that is actually the case. Not when taking into account some of the company’s recent actions aimed at policing speech of its users, that come off even more aggressive than what your average social media platform is doing these days.
For example, Reddit recently proclaimed, in what looked like a bout of Orwellian inspiration (in the vein of, “all animals (users) are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”) that to all intents and purposes, hate speech would be allowed on the site – as long as they targeted a majority.
The original version of Reddit’s new rules when it comes to countering promotion of “hate based on identity or vulnerability” is so shocking that it’s well worth repeating: It said that while it protects vulnerable groups, such as those often discriminated against based on their gender, race, gender identity, ethnicity, etc – “it does not protect all groups or all forms of identity.”
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Reddit then specified: “For example, the rule does not protect groups of people who are in the majority or who promote such attacks of hate.”
This definition was so over the top even in what’s euphemistically referred to as “the current climate,” that clearly, Reddit had to do something about it. Just considering that Reddit is a global platform, used by people in different countries and cultures, the very idea of what “majority” is or is supposed to mean was dubious and vague – and then to disenfranchise this (undefined) demographic seemed a bit much.
And now Reddit is back again for another try at this, stating this time, “While the rule on hate protects such (vulnerable) groups, it does not protect those who promote attacks of hate or who try to hide their hate in bad faith claims of discrimination.”
The first definition was simply outrageous; the new one sounds like it was crafted by an intern.
Reddit will not protect the speech of those “who promote attacks of hate or who try to hide their hate in bad faith claims of discrimination”?
However, this kind of non-definition is one of those that tech companies use on purpose. The broad and vague wording (“bad faith,” “claims of discrimination”) looks silly at first – but it’s designed to allow them to censor anything they don’t like, while ignoring hate speech complaints by anyone they don’t like. You might say that they’ve created their rules in “bad faith” and that it allows them to “discriminate” at-will.