- Reddit has clarified its rules on violent content and is cracking down on Nazi and far-right communities.
- The social news site has historically been extremely relaxed about the content it allows.
- Subreddits like r/PicsOfDeadKids and r/SexWithDogs have also been banned.
Reddit is banning Nazi communities following a rule change regarding “violent content.”
The user-community and news site has closed down a number of Subreddits — user-created communities — linked to the far-right and animal abuse, including r/far_right, r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, r/zoophilia, and r/SexWithDogs.
It has also explicitly forbidden content that “encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people.”
It’s a change of direction for Reddit
Historically, Reddit has had taken an extremely laissez faire attitude towards content posted by users. It played host to subreddits like r/BeatingWomen, which showed images of domestic violence, and r/jailbait, where users shared pictures of girls who are (or appear to be) under the age of consent.
In 2014, then-CEO Yishan Wong defended Reddit’s hands-off approach, writing that “every man is responsible for his own soul … We uphold the ideal of free speech on reddit as much as possible not because we are legally bound to, but because we believe that you — the user — has the right to choose between right and wrong.”
But over the past few years, the company has slowly begun to be more proactive in moderating the content allowed on the site — sometimes to the anger of the userbase. In 2015, for example, when it banned the self-explanatory r/FatPeopleHate and a number of other communities, the community exploded in outrage, with some accusing then-CEO Ellen Pao of being a Nazi.
There’s increasing pressure on tech firms to tackle far-right extremism
Fast-forward to 2017, and the internet-savvy far-right has exploded in visibility and confidence, leading to more pressure than ever on tech companies over their social responsibilities and the content they play host to.
On Wednesday, the Reddit staff blog announced that it was clarifying its ban on violent content, writing: “We have made some updates to our site-wide rules regarding violent content. We did this to alleviate user and moderator confusion about allowable content on the site. We also are making this update so that Reddit’s content policy better reflects our values as a company.
“In particular, we found that the policy regarding ‘inciting’ violence was too vague, and so we have made an effort to adjust it to be more clear and comprehensive. Going forward, 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; likewise, we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals. This applies to ALL content on Reddit, including memes, CSS/community styling, flair, subreddit names, and usernames.”
Alongside this ban, a host of Subreddits have been banned. According to Reddit users, these include r/NationalSocialism, r/EuropeanNationalism, the 4chan-linked r/pol, r/far_right, r/ActualJournalism, r/Nazi, r/RacoonsAreN—–s, r/DylanRoofInnocent, and r/WhitesAreCriminals.
Subreddits relating to gore and animal abuse have also been banned, including r/SexWithDogs, r/PicsOfDeadKids, r/SexWithHorses, r/Bestiality, r/PicsOfCanineVaginas, and r/zoophilia.
‘Do not post violent content’
Reddit doesn’t intend to ban all distasteful communities, however. In response to a user’s question, the admin landoflobsters said that r/WatchPeopleDie has “been reviewed, no plans to remove it for now.”
For context, here is Reddit’s previous rule on violent content, via Internet Archive (emphasis added):
Do not post violent content
Do not post content that incites or glorifies harm against people, groups of people or animals. If you’re going to post something violent in nature, think about including a NSFW tag. Even mild violence can be difficult for someone to explain to their boss if they open it unexpectedly. Additionally, we understand there are sometimes reasons to post this content (e.g., educational, newsworthy, artistic, documentary, etc.) so ensure you provide context to the viewer so the reason for posting is clear.
And here’s the new one (emphasis added):
Do not post violent content
Do not post content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise, do not post content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals. We understand there are sometimes reasons to post violent content (e.g., educational, newsworthy, artistic, satire, documentary, etc.) so if you’re going to post something violent in nature that does not violate these terms, ensure you provide context to the viewer so the reason for posting is clear.
If your content is borderline, please use a NSFW tag. Even mild violence can be difficult for someone to explain to others if they open it unexpectedly.
Steve Huffman, the current CEO of Reddit, will do an “AMA” (“Ask Me Anything”) question-and-answer session next week discussing the rule update, an admin said.