What just happened? In response to an open letter asking Reddit’s administration to ban subreddits spreading Covid-19 misinformation, an admin stated that as “a place for open and authentic discussion and debate”, Reddit wouldn’t ban subreddits on those terms. A week later, Reddit banned one of the flagged subreddits under the accusation that its members were “brigading” other subreddits, manipulating content through votes.
When Reddit moderators wrote the open letter, they hoped it would cause the administration to take some kind of action on the multiple subreddits spreading disinformation on Covid-19 throughout the platform, but that didn’t happen. The administration justified the lack of action by stating that dissent is “the foundation of democracy,” so it’s only natural to see “conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus” in a platform like Reddit, where democracy sits at its core.
Since the administration’s answer to the letter, a week has passed, and although it decided to not ban subreddits for spreading disinformation, that doesn’t mean they won’t do it for other reasons.
Yesterday, the r/NoNewNormal subreddit, which was accused of spreading disinformation about Covid-19, was banned due to its members “brigading” and manipulating content on “communities with more mainstream views on COVID or location-based communities that have been discussing COVID restrictions.”
In the 30 days prior to the ban being issued, some of the 120,000 members of r/NoNewNormal were responsible for 80 brigades on multiple other subreddits. Even after the Reddit administration issued a warning to the r/NoNewNormal moderators, these brigades continued to happen.
Besides the ban on r/NoNewNormal, Reddit is also quarantining 54 undisclosed Covid denial subreddits under Rule 1 of the Reddit content policy. Moreover, it will also build a new reporting tool so moderators can signal Reddit when they spot community interference. This tool will still take a few days to build. Once complete, it will be evaluated to see if it’s worth it.
The ban on r/NoNewNormal has been mostly well-received, with many members of the Reddit community being somewhat surprised with Reddit’s action after stating it wouldn’t do anything. However, some people are certainly not that happy with how things went.
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