Reddit—the colossal, decade-old, privately owned internet community—has created what’s effectively its very first anti-harassment policy ever. But will it actually cover the racist, bigoted posters in Reddit’s worst communities?
The announcement Reddit published yesterday spends a lot of time making excuses for why it’s taken them 10 years and countless high-profile harassment cases to finally implement a policy at all. But once you finally do get down to the policy itself, you’re left with this:
Because of this, we are changing our practices to prohibit attacks and harassment of individuals through reddit with the goal of preventing them. We define harassment as:
Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.
Which is a nice thought and wholly—if not intentionally—void of specifics. To wit: It seems clear that a hate subreddit like “Coontown,” Reddit’s 10,000-subscriber racist community, would lead many human beings to think that Reddit “is not a safe platform to express their ideas.” But if Coontown is only “tormenting and demeaning” black people at large, and not specific Reddit posters, is it covered in the harassment policy?
“It’s the same situation as posts in that every situation will be looked at separately and there are a lot of ways to view the content of an entire subreddit and harassment,” Reddit spokesperson Heather Wilson told us over email (the entire exchange is reproduced below). “Views we disagree with or find offensive will not be affected. Posts that meet the criteria of harassment stated before will be addressed.”
“Harassment,” in this case, “means an individual who consistently is harassing someone and/or is waging a “campaign” of sorts against someone (eg getting others to pile on/bully, posting private information as a threat, etc – that kind of abuse).”
As for the community-at-large, the conversation around the changes has been one of mild annoyance verging on total dismissal. Which, funnily enough, is not at all dissimilar to Reddit’s own response when pressed for details.
Will you be hiring any new employees to deal with the influx of new violation reports you’ll likely be receiving?
We’ve already hired some additional employees to add to our community management team, including someone starting soon to manage community operations and tools.
How exactly are you defining “systematic and/or continued abuse?”
That means an individual who consistently is harassing someone and/or is waging a “campaign” of sorts against someone (eg getting others to pile on/buly, posting private information as a threat, etc – that kind of abuse).
If a specific user reports what’s deemed to be a valid harassment complaint, but there have only been two instances of said harassment, would Reddit take any action? Or, if someone’s been harassed only once, but it’s done so in a way that this person legitimately fear for their safety, would Reddit take any action?
I don’t think we can get into hypotheticals.
Will the new practices apply to any specific subreddits as a whole? For instance, will the subreddit /r/CoonTown or the subreddit /r/GasTheKikes be allowed to continue, despite the fact that its existence and the majority (if not entirety) of its post almost certainly demean a large group of people in a way that would make a reasonable person conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation?
It’s the same situation as posts in that every situation will be looked at separately and there are a lot of ways to view the content of an entire subreddit and harassment. Views we disagree with or find offensive will not be affected. Posts that meet the criteria of harassment stated before will be addressed.
What will reddit’s response be to these harassment reports? Will users be immediately suspended? If so, will Reddit suspend simply their username or go so far as to ban their IP address, as well? If the rules do apply to specific subreddits, will Reddit be taking any steps to ensure that they don’t simply restart in another form?
Every situation will be looked at separately, and the response will depend on the specific situation.
I know each situation will be handled differently, but can you give me any sort of example at all as to the kinds of responses Reddit has been considering?
[Reddit declined to respond.]