Reddit mods reverse censorship of Tiananmen Square photo after backlash

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The moderators of the r/Pics subreddit moderators were harshly criticized for removing a photograph showing the dead bodies of the Tiananmen Square protests' aftermath.

The massacre was ordered by the Chinese government in 1989 to suppress a national protest movement led by young Chinese students and citizens, who had been peacefully demanding political and economic reforms for months.

Law enforcement opened fire on an unarmed crowd without giving any warning, as the armored military vehicles crushed bodies in one of the most violent acts of suppression of civic protest ever perpetrated by a government.

Thirty years later, the Chinese government still censors all references to it from the country’s internet and social media and punishes whoever speaks about it openly for inciting subversion.

Reddit moderators deleted the post containing the image from Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, causing a comprehensible outburst of rage among Redditors – some accusing the moderators of censoring for the Chinese government.

“Will your suppression of Chinese oppression continue into the next month and will the amount that your Chinese handlers pay you to fuck over [the] world be included?” one Redditor wrote.

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Referring to the credit system run by the Chinese, another Redditor wrote: “Nice desperate attempt to pump up your social score lmaooooo.”

“I can’t wait until next month’s transparency report when you explain why a picture of Chinese military vehicles entering Hong Kong was repeatedly removed,” a third Redditor wrote.

Most of this criticism was posted beneath the ‘July transparency report’ subreddit, used by the moderators to publish the post takedowns and bans they have executed.

In response, the moderators first locked the post, then though it over and reposted the picture with a title reading “censorship bad”, and restored a long comment by a Redditor who said he had been present at the time of the protests.

“Quite frequently, both approvals and removals will prompt ire from people who don’t like the actions we take,” Pics_Mod_Bot wrote. “In this case, however, a rather extreme amount of vitriol (originating from subreddits which are better left unmentioned) resulted in something of a cascade effect, during which accusations of paid censorship, agenda-pushing, and similar such things were posted.”

“While we don’t expect it to silence anyone—nor would we want it to,” Pics_Mod_Bot continued, “our hope is that it will offset many of the ill-conceived rumors, take the focus away from standard users (who are no more to blame for the initial removal than the critics are), and also send a positive message,” hence the “censorship bad” title.

The photo has now been restored.

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Filippo Cestaro
Filippo Cestaro is a tech news writer with a strong focus on AI, machine learning, and big data. His interests include AI singularity and transhumanism. He is also a contributor to Scuba Zone Magazine and joined with the University of Milan to publish work on the psychology of scuba diving. [email protected]