Though originally just a rumor posted by Redditor lacedwithbromance on Saturday, which claimed “Reddit’s largest-ever banwave is coming Monday,” suspicions surrounding big changes on Reddit came to light today.
Earlier, Reddit admins announced that it would be updating its content policy and banning roughly 2,000 various subreddits from the platform, most notably r/The_Donald and r/ChapoTrapHouse. The ban wave comes from a recent move by the social media site that said it intended to crack down on hate, especially communities that it claimed promoted such hatred.
The announcement post from CEO Steve Huffman was made on Monday afternoon to the r/announcements subreddit, and stated, “… we committed to closing the gap between our values and our policies to explicitly address hate. After talking extensively with mods, outside organizations, and our own teams, we’re updating our content policy today and enforcing it (with your help).”
Eight new rules were introduced in the post with an explicit direction that all users must abide in order to use Reddit. The rules include: communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned, community rules and policies must be obeyed and any spamming or vote manipulation is subject to bans, targeted harassment of any kind is prohibited and revealing identities of people (doxxing) will result in a ban. While some of the policies were merely rewritten, the new changes take a harder stance on any kind of hate speech.
The post also announced that about 2,000 subreddits were banned as a result of the new changes. Huffman included a list of 200 of these in his original statement. While a majority of the banned communities had less than 1,000 members or were inactive, notable subs such as r/The_Donald, r/ChapoTrapHouse, r/consumeproduct, r/BigChungus and r/wojak were also included. About the bans, Huffman said in the post, “The community [r/The_Donald] has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations. Though smaller, r/ChapoTrapHouse was banned for similar reasons: They consistently host rule-breaking content and their mods have demonstrated no intention of reining in their community.”
Users quickly racked up over 18,000 comments in the post’s thread, mostly seeking answers and clarifications to the announcement that were largely left unanswered. Redditor illegalNewt received the top comment while asking for more transparency about the banned subreddits, but received no official response. Redditor superspacesim was the next top comment, who said, “It’s a fine statement and I’m sure you wanted to do right thing but under your very own rule you declare that people on Reddit are not equal. You create segregation based on race, sexuality, disability etc. Instead promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, respect and equality your own rule are here to divide people.”
Posts, including memes, began popping up across the site on a number of subreddits shortly after, including a depiction of the Chinese flag made from Reddit aliens on r/WatchRedditDie with the title “Reddit banning r/The_Donald and r/ChapoTrapHouse while letting subs like r/Sino roam free is more evidence to the fact that Chinese funding is influencing this site.” Several Redditors, as well as moderators, also began posting information about competitor site Ruqqus, with calls for people to move to the new platform that boasts it’s “free of censorship and moderator abuse.”
Twitter quickly responded to the announcement with mixed reception. YouTuber Justin Whang tweeted about the ban, noting the drastic change in Reddit’s stance from previous years on free speech.
8 years ago, reddit was all set to fall on the sword to protect violentacrez’s subreddits in the name of free speech and now every few months they’re like “here’s today’s list of 2000 banned subs”
— Justin Whang 🐙 (@JustinWhang) June 29, 2020
A particularly debated topic surrounding Rule 1’s “Hate Based on Identity or Vulnerability” resulted in many online also mocking the interpretations of this vague new policy change. The excerpt in questions stated, “While the rule on hate protects such groups, it does not protect all groups or all forms of identity. For example, the rule does not protect groups of people who are in the majority or who promote such attacks of hate.” Journalist Tim Pool pointed out in a tweet that this new rule could mean that hate targeting people for being female is allowed, due to their majority status in the U.S.
Reddit announces that hate targeting people for being female is allowed pic.twitter.com/K8or5urf0w
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) June 29, 2020
Elsewhere online, the news spread to several media outlets who covered the story following the announcement post. In an article from the New York Times, the newspaper stated that “Reddit, acting against hate speech, bans ‘The_Donald’ subreddit,” while Vice, Politico and BuzzFeed News also reported on it. According to Vice, today’s ban wave and announcement will go down among many Redditors as “The Great Ban,” marking an unprecedented shift in the direction of Reddit’s future.