As YouTube and Facebook publicly grapple with the ways their platforms have been used to spread disinformation, users are hoping Reddit will do the same. Yesterday, Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve “Spez” Huffman took to the site to clarify Reddit’s role in the 2016 election, reassuring users that the company removed a “few hundred accounts” that it suspected were being used to to spread propaganda.
Those few hundred accounts haven’t been identified, so it’s difficult to judge their impact. But commenters quickly pointed out that Reddit has often been slow to deal even with obvious abuses of its platform — the top comment drew attention to NoMorals, a subreddit dedicated to collecting images and videos of gore, violent deaths, dead animals, and other extremely objectionable content.
The comment picked up thousands of upvotes, the social currency of Reddit, and Huffman replied to it twice. The first time, he promised that NoMorals was “under review.” In the second, he said that Reddit doesn’t “take banning subs lightly.”
But less than an hour later — though not before Motherboard posted a scathing story about Huffman’s comments — NoMorals was gone, replaced by a message explaining that it had been banned for “the proliferation of violent content.”
Reddit delaying the shuttering of a controversial sub is nothing new. A forum called Jailbait, which collected images of clothed underage persons, wasn’t removed until CNN reported on it. Similar subreddits have been used to post stolen celebrity nudes, sexual images of women taken without their consent, and even fake sex tapes created with deep learning software — and each has been removed only after lengthy deliberation (and a bunch of bad press).
The takeaway: to get vile content removed from Reddit, don’t bother with moderators. Just get Redditors angry enough to upvote their outrage.
Some users are trying to do just that. A sizable movement has emerged to remove The_Donald, a prominent Reddit community of Donald Trump fans that has mobilized to rig online polls, propagated far-right conspiracy theories and re-posted content by the Russian-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP on hundreds of occasions. Though whether that initiative could succeed is unclear, Huffman has said that he prefers “letting them fall apart from their own dysfunction.”