How Reddit Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than Stormfront
March 10, 2015 2:28 PM   Subscribe

The world of online hate, long dominated by website forums like Stormfront and its smaller neo-Nazi rival Vanguard News Network (VNN), has found a new — and wildly popular — home on the Internet. [NSFW racist language]

Keegan Hanks of the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses racism on the "front page of the internet".
posted by lkc (397 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have I ever expressed how much I appreciate the mods here?
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:32 PM on March 10, 2015 [227 favorites]


Heads up for readers, there are disturbing very explicit racist language/ideas quoted in full in this article.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


How Reddit Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than Stormfront

Lack of moderation. I'd like my cheque please, Gawker.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Is perhaps a Conde Nast boycott worthy of discussion at this point?
posted by jonp72 at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder if I should even visit Reddit. I don't have an account, but I lurk some fascinating subreddits, like /unresolvedmysteries and /badhistory, where everybody has their head screwed on straight, and there are rules. And yet: this.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


Could that maybe be on the front of the box, LobsterMitten?
posted by corb at 2:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Good on SPLC for giving this more exposure. I'm usually on the front page or r/programming, occasionally hit 'Random' and about one time out a hundred my jaw drops. It's vile, vile shit.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's really weird how people complaining about "free speech on the internet" always seem to mean "freedom to display a level of mindblowing bigotry hitherto unknown amongst human beings".
posted by selfnoise at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


How Reddit Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than Stormfront

1. Anyone can create a new reddit.
2. The rules about allowed speech are very broad.

That's all it takes.
posted by smackfu at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [33 favorites]


jonp72: I'd bet we probably couldn't even manage a week without a link to Reddit on MetaFilter. A boycott of Conde Nast as a whole sounds like pure fantasy.
posted by ODiV at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


This depresses the hell out of me, as I use reddit and find some of the site really useful.

Ugh, people suck.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


They host GamerGate, for fucks sake, when not even 4chan will put up with those fuckers.
posted by Artw at 2:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


Wow, yeah, sorry for not putting a NSFW language tag on this.
I think the article does a good job discussing a lot of awfulness, but it is actually all still pretty awful.
posted by lkc at 2:40 PM on March 10, 2015


although users are asked to "remember the human,"

REMEMBER THE HUMAN THEY PROVIDE UPSKIRT SHOTS
posted by benzenedream at 2:42 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer advises readers to "recruit" on Reddit (archive.today copy of article)
posted by CarolynG at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


[I added an NSFW marking above the fold.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The reddiquette is pretty explicitly NOT the rules, which are very limited:

Don't spam.
Don't ask for votes or engage in vote manipulation.
Don't post personal information.
No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors.
Don't break the site or do anything that interferes with normal use of the site.

That's it.
posted by smackfu at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's all it takes.

It really isn't, though, and despite its title this article doesn't provide that much of the broader answer to the "how" question either. It's a matter of the dominant values of Reddit culture (that is, on the whole, allowing for the variation of subreddits) as it has evolved. Though it's often denied, it seems to me incontrovertible that there is, more or less, a Reddit culture and that it's a culture with an ingrained friendliness to many right-wing values (misogyny, homophobia, racism, class prejudice, anti-social/anti-tax politics, etc.), which friendliness is sometimes cloaked under the guise of a commitment to "free speech" and other times not. We've talked about this here before in the realm of gender politics.
posted by RogerB at 2:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [24 favorites]


Is perhaps a Conde Nast boycott worthy of discussion at this point?

No, Conde Nast doesn't own reddit. Advance Publications does; reddit and Conde Nast are siblings in terms of corporate structure.
posted by Jpfed at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I find this to be a complicated subject. I think it may not be inherently morally wrong for companies to provide a forum for all kinds of legal speech, even abhorrent speech. Would people consider Reddit management's approach more acceptable if they removed ads from offensive subreddits? If not, is there anywhere on the internet where such offensive but legal speech could acceptably be hosted? Does Stormfront's hosting company have a moral obligation to shut the site down, or alternately, do they have a moral obligation to provide their customers with equal treatment and an equal platform regardless of their offensive viewpoints?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

Well that one comes with a huge wink, given how whiney and footdraggy they've been about removing up shots and other non-consensual photography which has absolutely included underage subjects.
posted by Artw at 2:50 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Meanwhile, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao took the stand the other day against her former employers in "Silicon Valley’s most high-profile gender discrimination suit in memory"
posted by Going To Maine at 2:51 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


smackfu: Thanks, I appreciate it as sometimes I just ... would rather not read about extreme POVs online. The thing is a lot of the mods on Reddit are volunteers so their dedication (rapidly approaches zero) is limited. Even in the most mundane subreddits e.g., tea, fountain pens, stationery, ask science, and handwriting there are many posts inflected with this problem.

Personally, I felt a lot better as soon as I stopped visiting that place except for maybe like once a month or so for sales.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 2:56 PM on March 10, 2015


>...sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

Guess an entire subreddit devoted to close ups of the butts of girl's volleyball teams doesn't count.
posted by Catblack at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


If not, is there anywhere on the internet where such offensive but legal speech could acceptably be hosted?

I'm not a blanket supporter of the American vision of "free speech", but I don't have a problem with Stormfront or whatever having their own website and domain. You don't just wander onto Stormfront.com (or whatever it is, I honestly have no idea) without having some understanding of what you're getting into. Whereas with Reddit it is shockingly easy to go from a group about cute dog photos to a hate subreddit without realizing it, and the racist culture leaks into comments all over the place. Send those assholes to their own sites and not somewhere that calls itself "the front page of the internet".

There's actually a really interesting culture war happening on Reddit at the moment that has been brewing for years. The old user base -- generally teen and college white boys with a nerdy background and a conservative ethos -- is being pushed out in the wake of Reddit's expanding popularity with all demographics, and it's making them real testy. (See: Gamergate, "subreddit cancer")
posted by jess at 3:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [43 favorites]


Yeah. I don't mind if neo-nazis want to run a neo-nazi bookstore. It's their right. I don't want my local bookstore to have a section full of their recruitment material in the interest of free speech though.

I use Reddit because there are some subs there I find really useful and entertaining but I'm pretty upset they continue to allow this stuff. It adds nothing positive to the site.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:02 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's not just racism, it's like everything bad. Misogyny, transphobia, weird PUA/redpill shit.

Basically anything hateful you can think of has a home there. And it all leaks out in to all the subreddits you see on the front page.

No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

Which is funny, because it isn't just that they drug their feet as mentioned above... it's STILL THERE, in private walled off invite only subs that there's no way they don't know about.

They don't care about what they did wrong, they just care about getting caught. All that matters is keeping the pageviews and usercount up and worshiping the almighty dollar.


I hate that on a lot of niche things, or nerdy techy things reddit is kind of the preeminent site and it's just where everyone goes... because i really just don't want to give them anything. But for worser or for worse, it's the biggest site now, and it's here to stay.

I'm really wondering what it'll take to make it change. First i thought it was the violentacrez thing, then i thought it was some other stuff, and now GG... just nothing seems to faze them or bring any real action down upon them for hosting stuff that literally organizes harassment, child pornography swapping, etc.

Read through this if you want a classic example of reddit being worse than 4chan.
posted by emptythought at 3:02 PM on March 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


and the racist culture leaks into comments all over the place

Is this a reddit thing, or an internet thing? Like, it seems like generally there sure are a lot of racists, and unless they are actively moderated away, they are everywhere.
posted by smackfu at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Like, see any open comments form anywhere.
posted by smackfu at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


Their former CEO expressed the belief that the users bear responsibility for the racist and misogynist content on the site, and that they wanted to run the site to be as neutral as possible within the law. I don't think it's so much a question of highly valuing "free speech" as it is that reddit wants to be able to host a lot of content, getting a lot of users, without having to spend a lot of effort managing the community. As the article points out, banning a subreddit will just result in users making a new one and migrating there. The only solution is either shrinking the userbase or engaging in a large scale, expensive moderation effort, which isn't really an option for an unprofitable company.

You can compare reddit to Google, which will index everything it can reach in a content neutral way, or Usenet, which is a federated system that is not centrally controlled. But the difference with reddit is that they are a company that is actually hosting this content, not merely pointing to it like Google does, and they are attempting to profit off of it, unlike Usenet.

It's hard to justify patronizing a company that is hosting and monetizing this kind of content. I say this as someone who uses reddit.

The question I haven't been able to answer is whether it would be better if reddit (and other social media platforms like Twitter) were a federated, non-centrally managed service, like email. In that case, there wouldn't be a company that's actually profiting off of hate speech. But if the content is the same, what would the actual difference be?
posted by zixyer at 3:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's a internet problem but I get the sense that Reddit attracts 99.99% more offensive people with the exception only being that other place which I won't name here.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 3:06 PM on March 10, 2015


It's well known that Reddit is some sort of wretched hive of scum and villainy, but that's the Internet as a whole. Reddit's less of a site, and more of a platform. It's like saying that tumblr and the like are porn sites.

It seems disingenuous to say that one of those SubReddits is in the top 2%, when the vast majority of SubReddits are somewhere between empty, derelict, and abandoned. If you created some criteria for "active" SubReddits, it'd probably be a lot lower.

Which is not to say that Reddit's great. It still has huge problems. But it's a platform as much as a website.
posted by explosion at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


Is this a reddit thing, or an internet thing

Both. Yes, the unmoderated internet has its share of people saying horrible things, but Reddit has actively fostered that culture over the years through both admins and users. It wasn't that long ago that even searching for "Reddit" in Google would turn up /r/jailbait as one of the six major subreddits, and the moderator of that subreddit was friends with admins. They even literally gave him an award for all of his moderating efforts! Hooray!
posted by jess at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2015 [15 favorites]


Yeah, their rallying around that guy blows all of the "neutral platform" arguments out if the water for me. This shit is a culture they actively encourage.
posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Sorry, double post, but I also think there's a pretty big difference between hosting, say, comments on a news article that contains racist people, and having a whole section of your website dedicated to being "Negro Free".
posted by jess at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


You can compare reddit to Google, which will index everything it can reach in a content neutral way, or Usenet, which is a federated system that is not centrally controlled. But the difference with reddit is that they are a company that is actually hosting this content, not merely pointing to it like Google does, and they are attempting to profit off of it, unlike Usenet

See this is why I respect Google so much, because I've never gone to aYouTube video and been confronted by virulent hate-filled comments.

/mega-fucking-sarcasm
posted by cyphill at 3:13 PM on March 10, 2015


Also, I don't think I need to point this out, but the amount of disgusting hatred for others I see on every public location on the Internet (including this one) has really made me question the point of participating in any online discussion.
posted by cyphill at 3:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Luckily Reddit doesn't think the SPLC is a legitimate organization - they've come at Reddit before, and they respond like Fox News commenters: SPLC has a left-wing bias, etc etc etc. Even on the "intelligent discussion" subreddit with this article - one of the commenters says "I looked at the website for the Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org) and I see no suggestion that they know anything about the Internet."
posted by windbox at 3:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Reddit is mainly made up of middle-class white dudes who weren't popular in high school, which is to say it is a factory for growing entitled shitbirds who think white guys are the REAL minority, racism is made up by POC to unjustly get into college, and women are all selfish whores who need to be kept in line with harassment and psychological manipulation.

That said, there are subreddits I like very much. But they tend to be completely apolitical, heavily moderated, and/or not very popular.

Also, I would suggest staying off /r/TwoXChromosomes these days. It has been made a "default", which means its posts show up on the front page without being specifically subscribed to the sub, which means the genpop of Reddit goes there to espouse their opinions about how one woman or the other was really asking for it and women who have babies didn't really want those careers anyway.
posted by schroedinger at 3:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [32 favorites]


"See this is why I respect Google so much, because I've never gone to aYouTube video and been confronted by virulent hate-filled comments. "

So I did a little experiment to test this out a bit. I searched for "Obama" in youtube, found the first speech listed (of his, not some random political ranter talking about stuff on youtube), then I read the comments.

Virulent hate-filled commets? Check. Racist comments? Check.

[not defending Reddit, but lets not pretend hate-filled racism has been cured by google's army of content monitors]
posted by el io at 3:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


But it's a platform as much as a website.

Being both is kind of the problem. It's enough of a website that I don't buy the platform excuse. It's a good excuse for, "We can't catch everything," but not for, "We don't even try."
posted by Drinky Die at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


YouTube has a report button. Just making an effort instead of none is a big deal.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've got an RSS subscription to /r/all, which is nice because it surfaces popular content from non-default subreddits you aren't subscribed too. The thing I've noticed recently is the growing popularity of overtly offensive content in this mix. These subs style themselves as edgy/funny/no-bullshit bastions that cater to the aggrieved majority at the expense of marginalized targets -- places like FatPeopleHate, TumblrInAction, and ImGoingToHellForThis, the last of which started out as a sort of alternative to TooSoon (which made jokes out of recent tragedies) bu which now posts openly racist stuff fairly often.

I feel like a lot of it is driven by clueless middle/high school and college kids, who want to rebel against The Man, which they perceive as the liberal/feminist/genderfluid/social justice crowd. It reminds me of recent studies that suggested the rising generation was destined to be more conservative as a reaction to the Obama presidency, just like my generation was more liberal in reaction to Bush.

Anyway, I think the answer, for those who feel up to it, is continued participation in Reddit as a whole to counteract all this bullshit. Like it or not, it has become the preeminent destination for discussion of virtually everything for a very wide swath of the web -- why abandon such a prominent platform to the bigots and haters? I think the site can be a valuable resource when moderated responsibly, not just by the subreddit owners but by the user base at large.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


Lack of moderation.

Yes. But, we pretty rarely have these type of people even trying to show up here, so I think there's thankfully something in the site culture that discourages it. Just a thought.
posted by jonmc at 3:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


>el io, i think you missed the part of cyphill's comment where they had the "/mega-fucking-sarcasm"
posted by DGStieber at 3:23 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


DGSteiber: Doh!
posted by el io at 3:25 PM on March 10, 2015


Also, I've never used reddit. Not out of any animus, I just never felt the need to. What I've heard on mefi makes me glad for that fact.
posted by jonmc at 3:27 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's well known that Reddit is some sort of wretched hive of scum and villainy, but that's the Internet as a whole. Reddit's less of a site, and more of a platform. It's like saying that tumblr and the like are porn sites.

And, much like Tumblr and Twitter, the user can customise their access to the platform in order to make it less bad. I've had a registered UN on reddit since before there were subreddits, and I've seen it's devolution pretty up close. I have a filter set up on specific subreddits and users, and the block-list is getting up towards 100 subs. It used to be an amazing place, and I'd still argue that their upvote/downvote system can be very useful for having large conversations, but reddit (as a populace, not a platform) is now totally unrecognizable compared to the place it used to be. I mean, Aaron Schwartz was involved in the early days of it. Colbert used to hang out there! And now, when I'm in class and I see another student hop on reddit, the things that fill their front page are totally alien to me. There's a large number of subreddits now that actively celebrate hate and bullying, and I don't even know what to do.

I'm sorry, this is a ramble, but watching reddit evolve (for me) has felt a lot like watching that smart kid you knew in high school gradually turn into the guy that stocks shelves at the grocery store who rants at you about racist conspiracy theories. I'm sure some non-english language has a good word for that particular sorrow that arises from watching a promising thing rot. I'd like to borrow that word, right now.
posted by DGStieber at 3:27 PM on March 10, 2015 [58 favorites]


I can argue both sides of Reddit's free speech stand. But I will say this about the site; I've been a regular participant in the past couple of years and this aggressive racist shit is entirely invisible to me. I regularly spend 30 minutes plus reading Reddit a day, including a bunch of very marginal subreddits like /r/WTF. Outright racism is seldom on display and usually when it is, immediately criticized and downvoted. I don't particularly like that Reddit helps host horrible racist people, but I do appreciate how they are mostly confined to a ghetto where they are invisible to me.

(There is a lot of passive racism on Reddit, but I take that as more of a reflection of American Internet culture in general than the specifics of Reddit. There's a lot of casual misogyny visible too, including on the subreddits I like to read, and that bothers me a lot.)
posted by Nelson at 3:29 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Look, you want the assholes where you can see them. Don't drive them underground. That way lies madness, and the Third Reich.
posted by gsh at 3:30 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Silicon Valley Free Speech Math

Let:

A be the amount of engagement your site gets right now.

B be the amount of engagement that your site gets from virulent bigots.

C be the amount of engagement that you are losing from other sources by letting virulent bigots hang around.



If A - B + C < A then protecting Free Speech is a Moral Imperative.
posted by ethansr at 3:30 PM on March 10, 2015 [30 favorites]


To me it seems weird to refer to reddit as a singular entity, except insofar as it is an actual company with employees, and in that the default homepage is incredibly popular.

It's a platform like newsgroups, IRC, chans, BBSes, and indeed the basic structure of the web, on which anyone can express themselves as long as they are not blatantly breaking the law, and even then it's often hard to enforce against, prevent, or even detect such behavior.

There are creative, interesting, and valuable communities on Reddit, and there are toxic, horrible, and illegal ones. I don't think of them as linked in any way except that they use a common platform, just as there are creative/interesting/valuable and toxic/horrible/illegal blogs on Wordpress or Tumblr.

That part isn't interesting to me. What makes it interesting is the demographics - that's what makes it a community if anything does. As others have pointed out, Reddit is largely populated by internet-savvy white men between 15 and 40. That demographic includes me, but that's not generally a group I try to cultivate acquaintance with in everyday life, and I understand that what bubbles up on Reddit is being selected by that demographic.

I don't know. It's an ugly world and Reddit just lets people upvote it.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:31 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I would also like to take this opportunity to give a shoutout to subreddits that don't suck:

/r/artisanvideos
/r/vintageobscura

and the sports reddits are really fun during the season. I only really know the college football one, but I've heard good things about the others.
posted by DGStieber at 3:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


(See: Gamergate, "subreddit cancer")

Not sure how old "X Cancer" is, but my first association with it will always be 4chan and the idea that "X is the cancer killing /b/". So if that's the phrase that's coming in, I have suspicious about where it's been coming from...
posted by Going To Maine at 3:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have suspicious about where it's been coming from...
Considering the point made just before that about how Gamergate was booted from 4chan and found a welcome home on Reddit...
posted by CrystalDave at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2015


>But I will say this about the site; I've been a regular participant in the past couple of years and this aggressive racist shit is entirely invisible to me

This has been my experience as well. It's like the internet: you will find whatever you want to find there. The gaming subreddits are great: due to their moderation policies, safeguards and upvote / downvote system they function a lot better than "official" forums - compare the quality of content between the Hearthstone subreddit and the one that Blizzard hosts, for example. The Blizzard one is regularly overrun by spammers. Reddit has become the de-facto "home" for a lot of communities due to just how well their moderation and curation policies work. Shadowbanning was a really amazing concept (to me) the first time I heard of it, as their solution to stopping spammers.
posted by xdvesper at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


AFAIK the people running Newsgroups never got together to award the creator if alt.photography.upshots a medal.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


The subreddits in the article is the least of Reddit's problems with racism. Trolls gonna troll.

The much larger problem is the casual racism that gets thrown around in some of the most popular reddits like /r/funny, /r/pics and /r/adviceanimals. And it has been getting worse over time.
posted by ymgve at 3:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


due to their moderation policies, safeguards and upvote / downvote system they function a lot better than "official" forums

Ugh ugh ugh. Nothing against you but this is my pet peeve -- companies, gaming companies in particular, who refuse to host their own information and just post to some subreddit instead. It's a TERRIBLE option. Thanks to being the public home of Gamergate Reddit is absolutely an unsafe place for me, a lady who writes about gaming, to post, so when a game tries to route its customer support through Reddit (which is becoming more popular) it just means I can kiss goodbye to ever getting tech support or being a part of the community.
posted by jess at 3:43 PM on March 10, 2015 [55 favorites]


Is perhaps a Conde Nast boycott worthy of discussion at this point?

No, Conde Nast doesn't own reddit. Advance Publications does; reddit and Conde Nast are siblings in terms of corporate structure.


How is your answer "no" then? If you want AP to crack down on Reddit's management, it would make perfect sense to convince advertisers not to do business with, say, Vanity Fair or Vogue.
posted by mullacc at 3:43 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


But in any case, even though I know there are s bunch of hobby sites I would enjoy in Reddit, I won't go there. As far as I'm concerned, going to any subreddit is supporting overall Reddit culture.

Yeah don't log in and downvote stuff and participate or anything, because that would be supportive. Just make sure to never ever go to a place and just talk about it while sitting in another place. I'll never understand that attitude. It's a good thing civil rights activists don't think that way.
posted by trackofalljades at 3:44 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


But I will say this about the site; I've been a regular participant in the past couple of years and this aggressive racist shit is entirely invisible to me

Same here. Misogyny? That's a different story.

The Disqus comment system that's taking over just about every news comment section ever is actually far worse in my experience, and although they have a flagging system, I haven't ever seen it amount to any actual moderation.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:46 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah don't log in and downvote stuff and participate or anything, because that would be supportive. Just make sure to never ever go to a place and just talk about it while sitting in another place. I'll never understand that attitude. It's a good thing civil rights activists don't think that way.

This works from the assumption that the place/structure/system in question is worth redeeming, rather than being razed and having its earth metaphorically salted.
posted by CrystalDave at 3:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you're going to claim that reddit is completely useless, and not in fact an amazing resource for hundreds of thousands if not millions of perfectly sane and communicative people, well I'm not sure how to have a conversation because you're just making things up.

It's a massive ecosystem of forums, it's practically the modern usenet...it's not just one thing. Throwing a ton of babies out because you don't like the smell of the bathwater seems a little ridiculous to me. I like reddit. I like metafilter. They are very different things. Neither is valueless, neither is perfect.
posted by trackofalljades at 3:50 PM on March 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


If you want AP to crack down on Reddit's management, it would make perfect sense to convince advertisers not to do business with, say, Vanity Fair or Vogue.

If this strategy actually worked, you'd think GamerGate would have been at least a little more successful on that front.
posted by a manly man person who is male and masculine at 3:51 PM on March 10, 2015


If this strategy actually worked, you'd think GamerGate would have been at least a little more successful on that front.

I didn't say anything about it working. Just that the common ownership makes it logical.
posted by mullacc at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty simple solution if Reddit's management wants to stay freewheeling and discourage these guys:

make it a policy that ad revenue from racist subreddits be diverted to organizations helping the objects of each subreddit's hatred.
posted by ocschwar at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm not saying it's useless, I'm saying it's not worth it.
If it's possible to separate the good from the bad, then why hasn't it been done, unless those with the ability don't want to?
If it isn't possible, then I'm sure the Internet will mourn for its lost cat photos, but will in time rebuild and hopefully learn from the matter.
tl;dr: Reddit delenda est
posted by CrystalDave at 3:55 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Reddit is a collection of a lot of communities united by a bunch of platform services. Some of them are detestable, and (as evidenced by the testimonials in this thread) many community members are shocked by that content.

I have to wonder if some of the harshest critics have actually logged in and customized their view at all, or if they just read the default subreddits or /r/all or something?

If I randomly flipped through basic cable channels, I would think television was a useless trough of the lowest common denominator of all human entertainment. If I set up my TV to skip most of those channels though, and tuned into ones with great stuff I'm interested in, that's a whole different experience.

Some content is curated for you, other content you have to curate yourself. Preferring one approach doesn't make the other approach irrelevant for the thousands and thousands of people who like it and don't mind culling a bit on their own.
posted by trackofalljades at 3:56 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think the cable TV analogy would work if NBC owned literally every channel.
posted by a manly man person who is male and masculine at 3:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I would say it's absolutely possible to visit Reddit and even participate in the community and never get exposed to the gross weird shit, but that doesn't mean you're not passively supporting the gross weird shit by doing so.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [52 favorites]


Heads up for readers, there are disturbing very explicit racist language/ideas quoted in full in this article.

Considering politicians, particularly those in the Tea Party and the "new" Republicans among other groups say the most deplorable things seemingly daily, I'm not surprised it's very common. It's infinitely depressing to hear about the Oklahoma fraternity or asshats talk about "legal" rape but the States is openly very nasty right now. Fuck you seems to be a celebrated principal. You have full networks pumping out anti-women, racist, and anti-poor of any race propaganda and people take them seriously. It's unfathomnably horrible. Has it always been thus but just more noticeable?

This depresses the hell out of me, as I use reddit and find some of the site really useful.

I've heard of it only through MetaFilter but some of my friends who are also on MetaFilter have said that parts of it offer a level of conversation that's even better then Metafilter in recent years. Giving up on the parts that are good sort of lets the asshats win but like many, it's so fucking tiring that myself and many others just want to give up. This kind of shit is so widespread that, like the clothes on our back, the electronics we use (from tax evading fuck the country we grew up in companies) we can't turn anywhere without a casual endoresement of exploitation and bullshit save getting out of the society we live in.

There's actually a really interesting culture war happening on Reddit at the moment that has been brewing for years. The old user base -- generally teen and college white boys with a nerdy background and a conservative ethos -- is being pushed out in the wake of Reddit's expanding popularity with all demographics, and it's making them real testy.

Let's hope that the culture "war" is not a war but a gradual (not because it should be gradual but because such things usually are by nature) shift away from nonsense.

I'm sorry, this is a ramble, but watching reddit evolve (for me) has felt a lot like watching that smart kid you knew in high school gradually turn into the guy that stocks shelves at the grocery store who rants at you about racist conspiracy theories.

And then hope is lost again.

But I will say this about the site; I've been a regular participant in the past couple of years and this aggressive racist shit is entirely invisible to me.

And then hope returns. I'll really have to check the site out sometime.

The principal of free speech or equal voices is a great one but it's been distorted and simplified to not be about conversation or communication but rather, let's let bigoted insane people who will not be at all reasonable participate in our discussion about infrastructure or politics or science or what have you. The voices of the super rich and the super ignorant are not being countered enough because the principal of coming to agreement or perspective or understanding is not valued anymore by so many and of course, you can't have an adult conversation with someone who absolutely refuses to converse with you honestly and reasonably. There's a reason there are hate speech laws in other countries.

If one of the central principals of a free and open society is equality then hate speech clearly violates that principal. It's not an easy thing to police (and who trusts the law these days?) but the selective devotion to the principals the States is supposedly founded upon is to say the least, annoying.
posted by juiceCake at 4:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah the game subreddits are pretty good - r/civ has been doing this amazing thing in the past few weeks with the so-called 'AI-only' games, and r/banished has been nothing but decent.

Default subreddits are awful. The default front page is awful. The site admins could do something about that but they don't. I feel the same way about reddit that I do about twitter and facebook (and metafilter!): cautious engagement is the best approach.
posted by um at 4:03 PM on March 10, 2015


I mean sure, if you use adblock, there aren't many ads on the internet. Basically your argument is: sure there is a ton of shit on reddit, but if you filter it all out, there isn't shit there.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


Reddit is much closer to Usenet. Technically nobody owns Usenet, but you need to pay your ISP or a news server to access it. That server can ban newsgroups en masse, but it's not really what they're being paid to do.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2015


Some of them are detestable, and (as evidenced by the testimonials in this thread) many community members are shocked by that content.

Yeah, but they're still community members.

I get not wanting to give up your favorite subs. I used to have a "not even once" Reddit policy, then spent a couple of months there and got really attached to some subs (all pretty benign lifestyle stuff). But every single one of them was, at some point, either subjected to a sudden attack of misogyny/racism/fathate/horribleness, or just started slumping into those things as the general standards of the sub slowly fell apart under (I think) good-faith participants who were comfortable with casual misogyny, victim-blaming, mansplaining (not a word I like but I have no other for what I saw), and then probably also bad-faith participants who managed to pass for a while as they brought the tone down, just for fun.

And then I decided, you know what, yeah. And now I'm back to "not even once" and I'm about to stop donating money to organizations that actively pursue Reddit community participation (including one organization my husband gets paying work from and I want very much to support) because, you know, there are places to foster community that are not racist woman-hating shitholes.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [25 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that a lot of great Metafilter threads are pretty obviously inspired by recent Reddit posts.

Given an option I usually prefer to see any particular discussion here due to the sustained conversation and moderation, but that's certainly not always the case. Despite looking for years I've found nothing that replaces the better aspects of reddit.
posted by tychotesla at 4:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've never felt the need to filter Reddit. The default subs are... not great, but they're not /r/watchpeopledie or any of the virulently racist subreddits, or anywhere close.

You have to go looking if you want to see something really awful. You also have to go looking if you want to see something awesome, but you won't see most of the nastiness the article talks about.
posted by BungaDunga at 4:07 PM on March 10, 2015


I've never felt the need to filter Reddit. The default subs are... not great, but they're not /r/watchpeopledie or any of the virulently racist subreddits, or anywhere close.

You only need to read /r/shitredditsays for about 10 minutes to realize this isn't true. almost all the super bad stuff actually happens right out in the open. in /r/videos, /askreddit, etc.
posted by emptythought at 4:09 PM on March 10, 2015 [17 favorites]


Meanwhile, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao took the stand

She went into venture capital, a wretched hive of scum and villainy, on purpose. She's a millionaire many times over. She has three Ivy League degrees, two of them from Harvard, one of the most corrupt and corrupting institutions on the planet. What makes you think she cares about racism or sexism that doesn't impact her life directly? She's firmly a part of the "elite" class. She and her descendants will be rich and powerful, forever. Concerns like this are for the plebs.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Throwing a ton of babies out because you don't like the smell of the bathwater seems a little ridiculous to me.

One could also stop bathing the babies in unflushed toilets and take them to a clean bathroom instead.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


My advice: If you gotta go in there go in there with your shields up and do not open hailing frequencies.
posted by Renoroc at 4:11 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


What makes you think she cares about racism or sexism that doesn't impact her life directly?

What a shitty thing to say.
posted by a manly man person who is male and masculine at 4:12 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Using reddit is like staying at a hotel that lets the KKK book group reservations.
posted by mullacc at 4:12 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Yes. But, we pretty rarely have these type of people even trying to show up here, so I think there's thankfully something in the site culture that discourages it. Just a thought.
posted by jonmc at 6:21 PM on March 10 [+] [!]"


I think the $5.00 entry fee has a lot to do with this.
posted by disclaimer at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Arguments that "it's a platform" and "it's just the internet" kind of fall flat on their face once you start looking at or thinking about it. Reddit positions itself as being the New Usenet, but it's still a single website, and it does have a sitewide culture that leaks into every other subreddit. Even "safe," moderated subreddits aren't, really, because every post you make makes you more visible to stalkers/harassers/bigots.

Then there's the sitewide admins/mods. I really half believe (or maybe 75% believe) that if Reddit continues to be a major Thing, it's only a matter of time before we find out that (at least) one of the sitewide admins has donated to a white supremacist org, written for a white supremacist magazine, or something. The way they handle issues concerning race, or any kind of bigotry, stalking/harassing, etc., leaves a lot to be desired and honestly often reads as support of bigotry. This is a team that considered ViolentAcrez a helpful mod assistant, but threatens to bring the banhammer down when trans people downvote transphobic garbage too much. The rules lawyer/naive libertarian way they approach anything "controversial" is, I think, probably just an "ethics in games journalism" way of deflecting noncommittal criticism; no one can be as blind to context as Reddit's staff have been. It's standard enough for corporations and media outlets to be as cowardly and lazy as possible on many issues, but Reddit has been so weirdly foot-draggy on things that anyone else would rush to absolve themselves of, like non-consensual upskirt photos of minors.

I lurk on Reddit and have/would defend it from the silly site rivalry that crops up over here from time to time, but it's very frustrating to me that it's pretty much the default platform for forums right now. Because there's a lot of wonderful stuff once you move away from the defaults, but as a site it's super ugly, and there's no reliable way to wall yourself off from the ugliness beyond just not engaging even in places you like.
posted by byanyothername at 4:13 PM on March 10, 2015 [31 favorites]


I've also seen this weird thing happen on mefi several times now. Why are so many people invested in saying "i don't see it?"

It's perfectly fine to just say "yea, it's a shithole and i know it but i use it anyways". I'd honestly think a lot more highly of people if they just admitted they didn't care rather than pretended it didn't exist. I use the site, and i know it's a fucking shithole. I used 4chan for years too.

The fact of the matter is that they could kick all this stuff out overnight if they wanted to, or in a couple weeks at most. But they don't, because it makes them money having all these users shitposting.

I guarantee they'll soon graduate from "we're hands off" to "It's too large of a problem to surmount we can't watch everywhere all the time" when actually, yea they could at least on the default subreddits, and it's kind of their responsibility.

They're like school admins saying they take a hands off approach to bullying because it builds character. Meanwhile, people on here are saying no one in chess club is getting beat up even when it's happening right outside the windows on the playground.

C'mon people, really?
posted by emptythought at 4:14 PM on March 10, 2015 [43 favorites]


Some content is curated for you, other content you have to curate yourself. Preferring one approach doesn't make the other approach irrelevant for the thousands and thousands of people who like it and don't mind culling a bit on their own.

As I've said before, just because you don't see the septic tank doesn't mean that it's not leaking sewage all over the neighborhood. Self-curation is not the answer.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:15 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


but threatens to bring the banhammer down when trans people downvote transphobic garbage too much.

also sitewide shadowbanning black women for being mad about racism.
posted by emptythought at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


I would say it's absolutely possible to visit Reddit and even participate in the community and never get exposed to the gross weird shit, but that doesn't mean you're not passively supporting the gross weird shit by doing so.

This is how I feel as an immigrant about living in the United States.
posted by srboisvert at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


You only need to read /r/shitredditsays for about 10 minutes to realize this isn't true. almost all the super bad stuff actually happens right out in the open. in /r/videos, /askreddit, etc.

The only reason to visit SRS is to actively search out the offensive material, and then even when it isn't that bad to circlejerk without argument about how bad it is. It's a toxic reaction to the toxicity itself.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


If this strategy actually worked, you'd think GamerGate would have been at least a little more successful on that front.

To be fair, GamerGate did get some advertisers to pull ads, the problem was that GamerGate did not pass muster once these advertisers actually looked at who they were listening to. Presumably company that would pull ads from a client this large due to questionable content would not discover that those requests were coming from a crypto-hate campaign.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 4:16 PM on March 10, 2015


Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


But even in Ye Olden Days of Metafilter, when there was no $5 fee and much less moderation, the site culture was -- not as gentle as it is now, and more of a boyzone than it is now, but nowhere near as bad as reddit. I remember the days of "I'd hit that"! -- but STILL, nowhere near as bad as reddit. I think it's heavily dependent on culture reproducing itself, and the web people and bloggers who were Metafilter's first users were mature-ish... but I have no idea what reddit's early user group was like, so I don't have much of a point to use for comparison.
posted by Jeanne at 4:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I used to be really active on Reddit, and the reason I left was that I was tired of seeing rampant misogyny and racism everywhere I went.

It was kind of a joke: tired of Reddit's awfulness, someone created /r/TrueReddit, a place for smart, interesting discussions based on following the rules of etiquette that everyone on the site was supposed to have been following all along. The idea being that this would be the mature part of the site. Of course, that fell apart when it became very obvious that no one cared about the "rules," and that any post about race would be filled with "blacks are the real racists!" comments, or worse. So some dedicated readers split off and went to /r/TrueTrueReddit. Sadly, /r/TrueTrueReddit started getting its share of awfulness, and I don't even know what state it's in today.

So sure, maybe the problem isn't the site itself; maybe it's just that no one has made /r/TrueTrueTrueReddit yet?
posted by teponaztli at 4:18 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sure, this buffet has a bin labelled "MysteryGravy" that is actually raw sewage, and sure, now that we're talking about it, so are some of the other bins. And yes, sometimes you go to get Shepherd's Pie only to find out while you're eating it that they made it with the raw sewage as well. And yes, the owners suggest everybody take some MysteryGravy as a default option and really seem to insist on having it there in the buffet, but you can choose to skip that with enough effort. And okay, people aren't all that careful about serving the MysteryGravy and it sometimes spatters onto other dishes. And to be fair, sometimes a bunch of MysteryGravy fans pour a bunch of it deliberately on one of the other dishes, because they want everyone to eat it.

But what I'm saying is that the green beans and the mac and cheese are both delicious, and if you carefully choose only those two items and avoid any accidental or intentionally spattered sewage, I think you'll concur with me that it is an excellent buffet restaurant, worth every penny.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:18 PM on March 10, 2015 [85 favorites]


> So maybe the problem isn't the site itself, maybe it's just that no one has made /r/TrueTrueTrueReddit yet?

There's a joke about PHP in there, but everyone who'd get it has already thought of it themselves.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:22 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


If not, is there anywhere on the internet where such offensive but legal speech could acceptably be hosted? Does Stormfront's hosting company have a moral obligation to shut the site down, or alternately, do they have a moral obligation to provide their customers with equal treatment and an equal platform regardless of their offensive viewpoints?

They absolutely do not have a moral obligation to treat their customers equally, and are complicit in promoting Stormfront's message of hate and violence, which calls for the extermination of entire races of people.

"Freedom of Speech" is a gratuitously misused phrase. While it generally describes the concept that a government should not be empowered to curtail the freedom of expression of its citizens, there's no clean or logical way to extend that concept to private affairs. Private citizens are very much empowered to use their discretion when deciding who they want to listen to, put up with, or do business with. Implying otherwise would be ridiculous.

Furthermore, private citizens and entities have an obligation to act responsibly and ethically. While the 1st Amendment provides a convenient legal cover for Stromfront and their webhosts (and I seriously question whether it actually does), the webhost is absolutely not upholding any sort of moral virtue by facilitating literal Nazis.

Freedom of Speech does not exist to allow political extremism to flourish unopposed. It exists for precisely the opposite reason -- so that reasonable majorities can speak up against extreme factions without fear of repercussion. The actions of Stormfront's webhost are reprehensible and immoral, and it is not even remotely hypocritical for us to decry them for it.

Also, Fuck Reddit.
posted by schmod at 4:23 PM on March 10, 2015 [16 favorites]


The only reason to visit SRS is to actively search out the offensive material, and then even when it isn't that bad to circlejerk without argument about how bad it is. It's a toxic reaction to the toxicity itself.

I think the point of that post was for those who are like "it's invisible! It isn't really around!" to understand that it's in the popular places on reddit, and here's an easy way for you to see it.
posted by cashman at 4:24 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's a toxic reaction to the toxicity itself.

I don't know if i buy this. It's pretty much the only place on the site you can talk about it without getting massively sealioned and told "but that isn't what i meant, you're so oversensitive" even about jawdroppingly terrible shit.

It also, in my experience, doesn't even manage to catalog a third of even what shows up on the main default subs, or even just the front page on a given day. I mean yea, you're seeking out what's terrible that day by going there, but i think it's pretty useful as a response to someone saying "i go on the main subs/front page and never see anything terrible really!" because it's right there and pretty often it's even the top comment in that thread.
posted by emptythought at 4:24 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


For what it is worth: as a woman, I have never used Reddit. I have never even approached Reddit or tried to find a subcommunity I wanted to be part of or tried to have a conversation there. I do not have an account. I don't follow links to the site. Effectively, I spend most of my time pretending it doesn't exist, which is not so difficult.

That's because in my mind, the site community is pretty inextricable with the things I hear about it, over and over again: creepshots. GamerGate. Jailbait. Racism, sexism, general stuff like that. I'm sure that better reddit communities exist within the sitewide culture, but I have less than zero interest in investing in any community hosted there right now. I am a person that the Reddit discussion has scared off. And I am not the only person I know, either. I do not want to participate in a place where I might come to the attention of those scumbags. I do not want to give the site that harbors them any money from my pageviews. But mostly, I don't feel safe there.

The site has, at the very least, a massive PR problem. Massive. Because I know lots of people like me, particularly women like me, and they either steer clear of Reddit for the same kinds of reasons I do (those I've discussed the site with), or they're really pretty cautious about mentioning Reddit use around me, which is impressive given that I don't think I've ever explicitly said "I don't feel safe there, even on subreddits, I have no faith in the site staff" to anyone who wasn't already going "well, Reddit." They are driving away many, many people by hosting this shit. And they are attracting the sort of people who enjoy it.

And the thing is, from my perspective--as someone who is not a Reddit user, granted--but my perspective is that they don't care about this or view it as a PR problem. And you know, that's fine. But it's certainly another tally in the "nope, not safe there" ledger in the back of my mind.
posted by sciatrix at 4:25 PM on March 10, 2015 [65 favorites]


Hmm, I only ever see racism in /r/darknetmarkets ("Black people deal drugs") and /r/conspiracy ("Jews run the world.") If I didn't subscribe to those subreddits, I don't think I would see any. I would have guessed that cryptic misogyny is much more pervasive on reddit as a whole. But I basically never see the regular front page of reddit so my view might be skewed.

Generally I love that reddit has many forums with different levels of moderation so I can hear a broad range of views, even if sometimes I find those views appalling. It's like drinking at a talkative bar.
posted by fivebells at 4:29 PM on March 10, 2015


According to r/shitredditsays, what are the 'good' subreddits, i.e. which subreddits have never had something appear on srs?
posted by um at 4:30 PM on March 10, 2015


Even with my very occasional visits to reddit when linked there for AMAs or cute kitten links, or when it was the only available place to see customer support responses on a game, there's been plenty of racism and sexism. Shockingly so. So I am side-eying anyone who chirps about how you'll only find it on the site if you are looking for it, so it's your fault. I suspect some people are working very hard to not see it.
posted by tavella at 4:31 PM on March 10, 2015 [20 favorites]


>sure there is a ton of shit on reddit, but if you filter it all out, there isn't shit there.

I aggressively use the filters in the reddit enhancement suite, so for a typical /r/all page load, I see maybe 10 out of 100 posts. (And I feel this is the only way to use the site.) Still if I click on new or rising, I tend to see new inane (and sometimes racist) subreddits pop up there. But RES makes it easy to add subreddits to the filter. But what it needs, as Gibson wrote in Neuromancer, is a shared killfile.
posted by Catblack at 4:31 PM on March 10, 2015


I don't think the publicity issue is going to be an issue for them as long as they're happy to get many clicks from people looking for upskirt shots or stolen sexytime pics from female celebrities and maybe the personal information of the subjects of that. Because at least historically, the rules against doxxing only count if you're doxxing guys on reddit, and mmmmmmaybe a female-identified redditor but I wouldn't count on it.

I would like reddit to be useful, but frankly there's enough bad shit there that it's enough to keep me from doing more than occasionally following reddit links and never ever posting.

Fuck those guys.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:32 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, Reddit is an awesome place for talking about Kerbals and other niche interests, as long as you don't go all SJW and start having discourse on gender and discrimination?

Jesus. I'm glad I filed it under 'ravening id of the internet'.
posted by mikurski at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [10 favorites]


Catblack - if reddit started supporting some kind of crowdsourced shared killfile (sort of like what Randi Harper did with her ggblocker for twitter), I might be a bit more interested in it.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


> It's like drinking at a talkative bar.

I do use reddit, so I'm not coming from any position of purity. I've heard the "place for lively exchange of ideas" trope before, and I'm okay with that, if you'll agree that there's a Klan meeting going on in the pool room in the back.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:35 PM on March 10, 2015 [21 favorites]


I've also seen this weird thing happen on mefi several times now. Why are so many people invested in saying "i don't see it?"

I think the point there is that Reddit is a gigantic and diverse community, which has the ability to self-segregate.

It's somewhat analogous to Usenet, which had a well-earned reputation for being a complete shithole. However, if you spent most of your time on Usenet discussing 18th-Century Literature, you probably had a much different opinion of the network.
posted by schmod at 4:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


You don't just wander onto Stormfront.com

Stormfront.com just says 'future site of' but Stormfront.co.uk have branches all over the UK and sell apple products, its the .org you want to stay away from but this makes me think wandering in wouldn't be that difficult.
posted by biffa at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2015


Though it's often denied, it seems to me incontrovertible that there is, more or less, a Reddit culture and that it's a culture with an ingrained friendliness to many right-wing values (misogyny, homophobia, racism, class prejudice, anti-social/anti-tax politics, etc.), which friendliness is sometimes cloaked under the guise of a commitment to "free speech" and other times not.

This is the Reddit culture now because there's a critical mass of MRAs and RedPillheads - Reddit hosts some of the central communities for that stuff - and white supremacists on top of the techie/college Libertarian leaning that was always there and permeates the Internet. While it's true plenty of smaller subreddits are perfectly usable, there's nothing stopping those guys from using them like anyone else - in subs that cater to niche interests this tends to be invisible until someone mentions, say, feminism. Or sometimes you'll notice a user who seems like a bit of a crank and go to their user page and find out that they're a real crank.

How it got that way is the real question. I think the policy of no central moderation originally came from a pretty genuine place but over time the interaction between the user base and internal politics and money has taken the site to the point where hosting "creepshots" is actually a pillar of its business model.

Also SRS is fun and an example of troll tactics used for a good cause.
posted by atoxyl at 4:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


> "The site has, at the very least, a massive PR problem. Massive. Because I know lots of people like me, particularly women like me, and they either steer clear of Reddit for the same kinds of reasons I do (those I've discussed the site with), or they're really pretty cautious about mentioning Reddit use around me, which is impressive given that I don't think I've ever explicitly said "I don't feel safe there, even on subreddits, I have no faith in the site staff" to anyone who wasn't already going "well, Reddit." They are driving away many, many people by hosting this shit. And they are attracting the sort of people who enjoy it. "

I think you might just hang out with people who are thoughtful and aware. I know many (cishetero white men) people who talk about reddit all the time, even to the point that they'll say things like "i got banned from /r/feminism today" in a casual conversation as though it is not a thing to be ashamed or cautious about talking about. I am doing graduate studies, so I am around a lot of people who are the right age to have taken in a lot of reddit when they were just developing critical thinking skills, and to them, reddit is a fun, cool, respectable place, and "the SJW's" are a real enemy/threat. Even if they recognize that there are extreme elements on the site, simply seeing that shit presented alongside valuable posts for years, without differentiation, has changed their intuitions about things. The shitty people are being attracted to reddit, but reddit is also growing its own shitpeople.
posted by DGStieber at 4:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


How to use reddit:
- create an account
- unsubscribe from all default subreddits. Never think about them again.
- subscribe to subreddits on gardening, programming and any other subreddit that is moderated and does not appeal overly much to young or stupid people.
- Enjoy reddit. Upvote great posts and great comments.
- If, at any time, a subreddit starts getting too many annoying/crappy/stupid posts or comments then unsubscribe and never think about it again.

All sites degrade over time. I used to read slashdot. I no longer do because the quality and comments degraded past the point where it was worthwhile. Eventually, metafilter will degrade. I don't know how long it will take, but eventually it will degrade. Such is life.

At reddit things are different. When quality degrades in a subreddit I don't leave reddit as a whole, I just unsubscribe from that one subreddit. That's the beauty of the site. It is whatever you want it to be. You only see hate if you put up with hate by reading subreddits filled with hate. It probably helps that I do not subscribe to any current events subreddits.

The primary purpose of the default subreddits is to be a craphole where lazy bastards who don't customize their experience can stay so that they don't pollute the good subreddits. All you'll find there is pure unadulterated standard humanity.
posted by HappyEngineer at 4:42 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also SRS is fun and an example of troll tactics used for a good cause.

Hah, you should see /r/againstmensrights.
posted by fivebells at 4:43 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


According to r/shitredditsays, what are the 'good' subreddits, i.e. which subreddits have never had something appear on srs?

Most of the city or college specific ones are fine, or have only shown up once or twice. i think the chicago and st louis ones can be bad? There's very rarely or never anything from stuff like the iphone or android subreddits, most tech related stuff that isn't like /r/technology, most of the music and art ones.

Anything related to gaming is generally fucked though, until you get as far down as like /r/buildapc or the emulation/emulators ones.

Another thing of note is that if you're bored enough, and start clicking through to the profiles of prolific posters on some of those subs... you'll realize that they're shitposting or just posting scary stuff elsewhere on the site pretty often. They just don't shitpost in the niche interest subs.

it's kind of a weird feeling once you realize that you're surrounded by assholes even when they're not assholing. It reminds me of how i felt being the only teenager dressed up all hipstery in skinny jeans with long hair at a demolition derby and figure 8 race.

I've also gotten comment replies when i was just talking about technical/hobby shit that were like "OMG U POST IN SRS U R A HUGE BITCH F****T" or whatever, and tons of disgusting PMs to that effect. In the "good" subs.

People definitely stalk around the site, and if you don't toe the party line, you will get attacked even if you're only posting about boring normal hobby shit or in some obscure music or photography or urbex sub or whatever.

Sometimes the raw sewage will come find you, even if you haven't interacted with it. Just by association of being on the "wrong team".

If reddit was a physical place offline, it would feel like a frat boy bar where i was always afraid that i was going to get my ass kicked or my friends drink was going to get roofied.
posted by emptythought at 4:43 PM on March 10, 2015 [40 favorites]


I think a more interesting question is how it compares to other modern social media/community websites. Is there a similar virulent racist community on tumblr? That site has similar self-segregation into different communities. If so, how has the site handled it? I assume with yahoo now at the helm and trying to disown the adult content portions of tumblr, they'd frown on racist snuff videos. How about when it was independent? Anyone know?

Livejournal is also a good analog for reddit, since they're both strongly organized around discrete communities with volunteer moderation, unlike tumblr and twitter. As far as I know, livejournal never attracted this kind of garbage, although it had it's fair share of awful nonsense.

Like someone mentioned above, a big part of the issue is the founding communities: for livejournal the founding communities were early bloggers and other old web types, and fandom. For reddit, the founding communities were young, tech-oriented men and teens.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 4:48 PM on March 10, 2015


Most of the city or college specific ones are fine

Definately not r/philadelphia
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:57 PM on March 10, 2015


At reddit things are different. When quality degrades in a subreddit I don't leave reddit as a whole, I just unsubscribe from that one subreddit. That's the beauty of the site. It is whatever you want it to be. You only see hate if you put up with hate by reading subreddits filled with hate. It probably helps that I do not subscribe to any current events subreddits.

I agree with you that it's possible to have a pretty good experience Reddit if you use it in a limited way. And I lean - slightly - toward thinking the best way to try to change Reddit would be to a.) use it in a constructive way and b.) demand change.

On the other hand I absolutely think it's skeezy for a supposedly mainstream commercial web site to host Stormfront-level stuff. I think Stormfront has a right to be on the Internet but that's their domain, their server, their community, everybody knows what they're about. If Reddit wants to profit from having the White Power people around then damn right they're gonna have to take the heat for it. And even if they decided to crack down on explicit hate the MRA types are very practiced in stepping right up to the line so I have a hard time imagining they'd ever really be kicked off.

Basically some days I think it would be possible for a more diverse community to take over Reddit and reshape it and some days I think the best case is that you have parity between SRS and RedPill and they just downvote each other back and forth for eternity.
posted by atoxyl at 4:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think Reddit is guilty of policies that have tended to feed the beast instead of working to build and support communities.
posted by humanfont at 5:00 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


what are the 'good' subreddits

Rather unsurprisingly, the ones that are very strictly moderated. A good example is /r/askhistorians, where the mods are absolutely ruthless in deleting anything that is unsourced, derail-y, or assholish. It can be somewhat dry and humorless, but the sticking to "just the facts" means that the chances anything shitty comes up are almost nil. Of course, a lot of people and mods do have a humorous side, for which they head over to /r/badhistory. That sub also tracks the kind of racist/sexist/etc stuff people use elsewhere on their site (for example, anti-feminist nonsense so loved by MRAs, Red Pillers, gators, etc).
posted by zombieflanders at 5:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


How to use reddit:

-close the tab. Jesus Christ. People kept telling you this would be worthwhile. You're putting in all this effort to hide the jokes about starving Africans and hypocritical college feminists just so you can hopefully read someone saying a thing about transistor radios that if it's actually interesting will be linked on Buzzfeed next week anyway and in the meantime you're contributing page views and traffic and legitimacy to a site which gleefully makes money off of the degredation of women, which overwhelmingly thinks the narrative of Ferguson, MO was one in which the media incited riots. Why are you doing this. Close the tab.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [99 favorites]


I've never seen racism or sexism on Reddit.

Also, I only go to /r/kittensgame.
posted by el io at 5:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm a moderator on an active, academically oriented subreddit (but not one as big as AskHistorians). All of the moderators agree that we don't want to host hate--and we even have a rule against posting bigoted opinions that are contrary to the basic findings of the field, which can result in the ban.

Even so, the site-wide culture of Reddit does affect us.

One of the consequences is that some conversations are impossible or difficult. Anything that could be interpreted as "feminist" gets a blast of knee-jerk criticism. It's treated with an intense scrutiny that is not given to other topics. The obviously hateful comments can just be removed, and the user banned--but many of these comments would be okay or borderline if there weren't so many like them.

It's the age-old problem of identifying bias; often it's not clear in an individual instance, but only as part of a larger pattern.

So, the platform matters, even with an active mod team. We want to have a subreddit with a high quality level of discussion, free from hate, but it's a challenge to maintain this. And yes, I do in part blame the site moderation team. Sometimes I feel like I should be leaving, and not supporting them anymore -- but other times, I think of comment chains where I feel like someone has actually learned something, and that we have actually done a small bit to dispel some of the hate there. Us being there makes it less of an echo chamber. I don't know what the right thing to do is, in the end, so I stay because I like it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:08 PM on March 10, 2015 [37 favorites]


I think the $5.00 entry fee has a lot to do with this.

We didn't have this kind of trouble even in the pre-$5 days.
posted by jonmc at 5:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


If, at any time, a subreddit starts getting too many annoying/crappy/stupid posts or comments then unsubscribe and never think about it again.

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The people who say the crap is invisible apparently don't look at the front page. Calling people "faggots" is not only accepted, it is expected.
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


The thing about metafilter that kept it from being a cesspool is that was owned by someone who took responsibility for it.

What is notable about the sites that become cesspools is that instead of personal responsibility you have hand waving about abstract principles and responsibility shell games.
posted by srboisvert at 5:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [49 favorites]


Keep in mind that Reddit is absolutely capable of moderating subreddits on the site-wide level. I believe they shut down some of the subreddits that drew the worst publicity (ie Jailbait) a while back, but my (unscientific) perception is that it seems more common for subreddits to get shut down for selling products/affiliate links.
posted by fermezporte at 5:22 PM on March 10, 2015


If you're thinking SRS is too circle-jerky, check out the list of Fempire subreddits on the right. There's a bunch of places that are for discussions that will probably be more to your liking. SRS Prime has been preserved add a circle jerk because allowing the circle jerk to be broken makes it prone to being shit up.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:23 PM on March 10, 2015


The people who say the crap is invisible apparently don't look at the front page. Calling people "faggots" is not only accepted, it is expected.

Well yea. That's the point. I never ever look at the default front page. I would only see that if I was logged out.
posted by HappyEngineer at 5:25 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee.

Actually, it's more like cutting off a fingernail. Cutting off the whole hand would be what others are doing when they "close the tab" and leave reddit entirely.
posted by HappyEngineer at 5:31 PM on March 10, 2015


To continue this increasingly bad comparison, it's more like cutting off tumors that keep growing on every part of your hands, then after a while smiling as you look at the scraggly pieces of leftover flesh and admire how smooth the scars are if you look at them in the right light.
posted by cashman at 5:35 PM on March 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


I never ever look at the default front page. I would only see that if I was logged out.

Because nothing says 'my house is awesome' like 'you have to come in using the backdoor, or else you'll see the burning effigy my racist neighbors have out.'
posted by mikurski at 5:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [65 favorites]


"Front" page is customizable. I won't defend reddit, because it can be a cesspool, but I find it useful at times for interests that i have, and my experience, by and large, is that the crap is invisible to me. I certainly know about it, from discussions like this one.
i would certainly be behind a movement to pressure reddit to change, and try, whenever it's possible to call the assholes out for their assholery.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


It seems really striking how, whenever criticisms of Reddit come up, there's always a strong reaction that "It's reflective of humanity. How could you expect Reddit to be better?". And I can be cynical at times, but I'm really not convinced that all the issues raised about Reddit *just so happen* to coincide with issues inherent to the human condition.

In other words, there's clearly room for vested interest in asserting that 'all of you are just as bad as we are'. (and depending on where you look, an addendum of "and we're just more honest about it, not subject to Political Correctness/SJW wrgrbl") (If you want a pop-culture comparison, remember the "Bombs on the ferry" scene from The Dark Knight.)
posted by CrystalDave at 5:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


"People are saying the punch is a bit, well, shi-"
"THEY'RE DRINKING IT WRONG."

"But isn't that a tu-"
"NEVER MIND THAT YOU'LL NEVER NEED TO SEE IT AGAIN."

"But it tastes a bit, um..."
"JUST GET A NEW CUP IT'LL BE FINE."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:48 PM on March 10, 2015 [18 favorites]


"Front" page is customizable.

If I, a stranger and hypothetical friend of yours, come to visit Reddit? It is not customizable, and the awesome interesting stuff is not the first thing I see. The first thing I see is the goddamn burning cross. Websites use their front pages to try to attract new users. Reddit's is not, shall we say, particularly attractive.
posted by sciatrix at 5:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think you might just hang out with people who are thoughtful and aware. I know many (cishetero white men) people who talk about reddit all the time

I know several women who say they like Reddit and seem fairly oblivious to its bad reputation. They are not-particularly-tech-oriented people who I would guess see the default front page they way they see Youtube - as a collection of funny viral stuff with really shitty lowbrow discussion if you scroll down. The presence of organized hate movements is not obvious to that kind of casual user especially if their expectations are low. But the destructive impact becomes clear as soon as you dig even a little bit deeper, and it's fundamentally pretty objectionable.
posted by atoxyl at 5:50 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Another thing a lot of people here aren't realizing is that when they're suggesting deleting everything that shows on the front page and picking specific subs, you need an account for that. Most people browse reddit without an account, even in apps. I forget where the stats are, but i think it was something like only 10% of people have accounts, and only 3% of them ever comment or close to that.

So most people who view the site get no choice in what they see, and just see the garbage can. And creating an account and looking around enough to curate and not see shit is a time investment. Hell, if you're not willing to browse through piles of turds you need a friend willing to give you some guidance on it.

You're basically admitting that default logged out experience that 90%(+/-) of people see is garbage, while trying to get people to invest time to route around that garbage who have no real motivation to do so.

How the hell does that make sense from an opportunity cost standpoint?
posted by emptythought at 5:57 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


The much larger problem is the casual racism that gets thrown around in some of the most popular reddits like /r/funny, /r/pics and /r/adviceanimals. And it has been getting worse over time.

The overall site culture is really, really awful; if you have anything that is at all related to any social justice issue (as in, it's about anything other than cishet white men) you end up with a shitload of awful comments, and the triviality of making new accounts mean that it's overwhelmingly the job of the volunteer moderators of the "good subs" to ban the constant deluge of trolls, who are able to create new accounts really easily. Because of the one account for the entire site issue, there's no way for individual moderators of "good subs" to do anything but play whack-a-mole with these assholes. I think it's really gross that reddit hasn't done anything about this and continues to make money (or attempt to make money, I guess) off of these volunteers by not giving them the tools to manage their members better.

The only good subs are ones that are actively focused on anti-bigotry (including SRS, the dorknet, and AMR) and SUPER aggressive about using the banhammer, and even those create enormous quantities of work and waste a ton of volunteer time addressing these basic issues, because reddit won't give sitewide bans to horrible people.

The site culture thing really comes up when you get general-interest subs that happen to be moderated by someone with basic human decency, because you end up getting a million accusations of them being social justice warriors/SRS/etc and they act all mad and hurt and complain about their free speech. I've seen this happen a couple times with dorknet subs that I follow; people got REALLY mad a few years back when the mod didn't let them all post rape jokes on their shibe memes.

The only reason to visit SRS is to actively search out the offensive material, and then even when it isn't that bad to circlejerk without argument about how bad it is. It's a toxic reaction to the toxicity itself.

It's really nice to be able to post really shitty stuff and have other people say that yeah, that's fucking terrible. The culture of reddit is so awful that it can really gaslight you about what is and isn't acceptable; having a place to validate feelings of "this is bad and it makes me feel bad" can be really useful. Disallowing discussion means that you can't get away with tone arguments, concern trolling, etc, and it can be really nice having a place that can be a refuge from that kind of bullshit.
posted by NoraReed at 6:02 PM on March 10, 2015 [36 favorites]



If I, a stranger and hypothetical friend of yours, come to visit Reddit? It is not customizable, and the awesome interesting stuff is not the first thing I see. The first thing I see is the goddamn burning cross. Websites use their front pages to try to attract new users. Reddit's is not, shall we say, particularly attractive.


Any friend, hypothetical or not, that I would direct to reddit, i would steer directly to a sub that was germane to our mutual interest, or i would absolutely give you a warning that reddit can be an awful place for all the reasons. how many people just stumble upon it unawares? do they tuck tail and run? close the tab? find what they want and block out the rest? organize a protest or boycott?

It is, in some ways, like s smokey dive bar in the bad section of town, filled with miscreants of all sorts, but with a basement room (that you can later access through a teleportation device) that sometimes holds meetings that are more interesting, or more difficult to be a part of than in other places.

I suppose i f i happened upon the owner, and felt i had some influence, i would say 'hey this place is a shithole, if you cleaned it up you'd have a better reputation" but then Bill Gates stops by the very next day for an AMA.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2015


i would certainly be behind a movement to pressure reddit to change, and try, whenever it's possible to call the assholes out for their assholery.

Is there something that is currently preventing you from doing this? You can start a letter-writing campaign or new subreddits or any other bunch of things. No need to wait for a fully grown movement to be created by other people.
posted by rtha at 6:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It puts them all in an easy to find location that can be trolled by the FBI and used to prosecute them. It's a win, a Pyrrhic one, but a win. (Not really, that's a great deal of bad in one place)
posted by NiteMayr at 6:09 PM on March 10, 2015


Another factor is the lack of a mechanism to oust bad moderators. My city's subreddit has some toxic moderators whose actions have driven away a lot of positive contributors and reduced the discourse to a sterile pap with ugly undertones of racism. There's no way to force the mods out, though, so that's how it's always going to be.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:10 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


qxntpqbbbqxl : What about /r/[mycityname]happy (eg: /r/chicagohappy) or something like that. I'm sure there are plenty of folks that want to discuss your city without ugly racist undertones. With some nonracist moderation in a new subbreddit, you could have the discussions you want.
posted by el io at 6:17 PM on March 10, 2015


Reddit has become an unredeemable toxic wasteland. I refuse to support a platform that allows the sort of viciously misogynistic and racist comments that have become all too common there, so I deleted my account last year and will never use it again. Starting to think my Twitter account is next.
posted by oulipian at 6:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's worth adding, since I've recommended trans subreddits before, that most of the feminist subreddits on the site are transphobic/TERFy. /r/feminism is crypto-TERFy--posting trans things, being out as trans, aren't explicitly verboten but will get you a lot of downvotes, arguments and harassment. /r/feminisms is openly TERFy. Don't even. /r/TwoXChromosomes is about the only feminist space that's been clearly anti-TERFy, but is now a default sub, so...yeah. That's leaving aside all the subs specifically for TERFs and violent transphobes of all stripes, which don't deserve mentions.

It's just an additional layer to the whole thing of engaging with the site in "read only" mode. Even the spaces that are "safe" for one group aren't always for others.
posted by byanyothername at 6:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [14 favorites]


It is, in some ways, like s smokey dive bar in the bad section of town, filled with miscreants of all sorts, but with a basement room (that you can later access through a teleportation device) that sometimes holds meetings that are more interesting, or more difficult to be a part of than in other places.

"Here, use this teleporter to get to our meeting. But if you go out the door to find the can or something, you're gonna get cut by some hoods."

Isn't there a nice, wholesome community center you can use to discuss your esoterica?
posted by mikurski at 6:20 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is there something that is currently preventing you from doing this? You can start a letter-writing campaign or new subreddits or any other bunch of things. No need to wait for a fully grown movement to be created by other people.



I've been on metafilter long enough to know that calling out any individual, about whose daily life and struggles you know very little, for not doing their part on any given issue to organize or participate in whatever is the social justice item of the moment, is unproductive.

Time, energy, the obligations of my life as a parent, employer, coach, mentor, son, brother, uncle and member of many organizations that represent my ideals of social justice prevent me from doing a great many things, while still giving me the satisfaction of accomplishing many others, the result of which benefit the lives of those around me in countless ways.

Forgive me for choosing to be a follower on this one, for the time being.
posted by OHenryPacey at 6:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another factor is the lack of a mechanism to oust bad moderators.

Oh god yes. Also a single mod can sometimes lose their shit, oust all the other mods, and take over; I saw this happen recently with a sub a bunch of my friends hang out on when one of the folks they'd trusted to mod them got offended about deleting some anime child porn and basically took over

it's really telling that the one way to really easily ruin a sub on reddit is "have a lot of redditors go to it" because they immediately shit up the place

i never noticed /r/feminism being TERF-y because it was too busy being full of MRAs and banning all actual feminists, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was a transphobic shithole in addition to the other kinds of shithole it is
posted by NoraReed at 6:23 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


I never notice racism or sexism on Reddit, said the cishet white dude
posted by shakespeherian at 6:28 PM on March 10, 2015 [36 favorites]


Last year, in the wake of the Ferguson verdict and #blacklivesmatter, I was wondering which faction was stronger on Reddit, the "fuck the cops" contingent or the racists. Based on the posts that were bubbling up in r/all (and the comments therein), it seemed to me that the racists had the definite advantage (2-to-1? 5-to-1?).

I just checked redditarchive.com around Nov. 24, 2014 (the verdict day) and there are way, way fewer Ferguson-related posts than I remember. Maybe a difference between frontpage and r/all? Or maybe my memory is just faulty? Now, I kind of wish I had taken screenshots to confirm my memory.
posted by mhum at 6:31 PM on March 10, 2015


Yeah in general the madding crowd seems to be shit. I've been a redditor since 08 and I've seen a lot more BS as the site has become more popular. On the subs I frequent mostly the trolls and morons get downvoted to oblivion. But in some places on reddit reasonable people appear to be in the minority. What's also disturbing is group tactics or individuals with multiple accounts for downvoting. I've noticed that in TwoX where there's a lot of feminist debate.

Anyway I generally don't go to the places where the assholes predominate, and I'm not ready to give up my other communities that I'm perfectly happy with. Whether twitter or reddit can solve their troll problems I don't know, but I doubt it.
posted by Ansible at 6:31 PM on March 10, 2015


Does Stormfront's hosting company have a moral obligation to shut the site down, or alternately, do they have a moral obligation to provide their customers with equal treatment and an equal platform regardless of their offensive viewpoints?

They absolutely do not have a moral obligation to treat their customers equally, and are complicit in promoting Stormfront's message of hate and violence, which calls for the extermination of entire races of people.

"Freedom of Speech" is a gratuitously misused phrase. While it generally describes the concept that a government should not be empowered to curtail the freedom of expression of its citizens, there's no clean or logical way to extend that concept to private affairs. Private citizens are very much empowered to use their discretion when deciding who they want to listen to, put up with, or do business with. Implying otherwise would be ridiculous.
I see where you're coming from here -- the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to freedom of speech just protects you from the government silencing you, since if private Website A won't let you speak there you can just go to Website B, whereas oppressive governments don't allow for easy alternatives. On the other hand, there's a private ideal of free speech that is broader than the mere legal right: the idea that all viewpoints should be heard, even the repulsive ones, because (a) the best way to marginalize repulsive views is to out-argue them, and (b) once you start silencing "repulsive" speech it's easy to let yourself also silence reasonable speech that you personally disagree with.

There's an analogy here with racial discrimination. Not only is the government forbidden from discriminating its services based on race, but so are private businesses. (Private citizens are still free to not let certain races in their homes, of course.) This is because historically so many private businesses would discriminate against blacks given the right to do so, that in practice a black person would get inferior service if any, even though theoretically they could "just" go find a non-discriminatory alternative business. I see Reddit's and hosting companies' tolerance of Stormfront et al. the same way: Nazi views are so widely despised that if everyone were comfortable with denying them service, they wouldn't be able to create websites, book hotels, or basically do anything, because all those are technically private. And before you say "Okay, good, let the Nazis suffer" -- acceptable shunning of the Nazis and the KKK will inevitably devolve into shunning more reasonable people on the opposite side of the political spectrum. I don't want the "red state/blue state" divide to become even more literal than it already is.
posted by Rangi at 6:32 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only reason to visit SRS is to actively search out the offensive material, and then even when it isn't that bad to circlejerk without argument about how bad it is. It's a toxic reaction to the toxicity itself.

Shining a light on toxic behavior that is tacitly accepted within a community is a vital step in changing the behavior and overall culture of that community. Ignoring it does nothing but allows it to fester.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [7 favorites]


Reddit has become an unredeemable toxic wasteland. I refuse to support a platform that allows the sort of viciously misogynistic and racist comments that have become all too common there, so I deleted my account last year and will never use it again. Starting to think my Twitter account is next.

Can you explain why you draw the "platform/non-platform" boundary at Reddit and Twitter versus the rest of the internet, instead of good subreddits versus bad ones, or the internet versus other media? All I can think of is that since sites have central owners/admins, you expect them to police their platforms, and the internet as a whole has no such mechanism. But after all, that's what the individual subreddit moderators are for. As for Twitter, I don't use it myself, but don't you only see tweets from people you choose to follow? I can't imagine Twitter Inc. being able to moderate all the tweets and delete misogynistic/racist/unacceptable-ist ones, especially since their list of unacceptable isms probably won't be exactly the same as yours.
posted by Rangi at 6:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tumblr to me felt like a endless chain email from that one friend. Yes, there are problems w/racism, spam, and other less pleasant items online but it helps that there's Tumblr Savior/block options too.

I like it as it let less tech savvy artists/creators post their works online w/o having to create a separate personal site. However, most of the members are <18 and in fandom. This is OK as I liked LJ but less interesting over time as I move away from it. Also, it's terrible for long form or writing unlike blogs. The bright side is that most tumblrs are accessible via RSS readers which saves me a lot of time.

I've been on Reddit for 2+ years as I was linked there for niche subreddits but default page "not bad"? Hahaha, good one. I aggressively filter out problematic posts using extensions and even then garbage shows up when I least expect it.

For people who say it's like a bar, internet, the world are missing the point. I've had exp with all kinds of forums, BBS, sites, games, and bars but rarely did I expect from reading about the latest video game review to extreme opinions by the local angry man at the street corner w/o any warnings.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 6:47 PM on March 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


Rangi: "acceptable shunning of the Nazis and the KKK will inevitably devolve into shunning more reasonable people on the opposite side of the political spectrum"

I think that "shunning of the Nazis" is not merely acceptable in Germany but more or less sanctioned by the state. I don't know if the inevitable devolution has happened yet.
posted by mhum at 6:49 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


All sites degrade over time. I used to read slashdot. I no longer do because the quality and comments degraded past the point where it was worthwhile. Eventually, metafilter will degrade. I don't know how long it will take, but eventually it will degrade. Such is life.

But this is super duper fatalistic in a way that excuses bad stuff on the basis that maintaining or improving a site's culture is literally impossible rather than just difficult and resource-intensive. There is no law of the universe that says a website must degrade over time; it's just actual hard work to be attentive to what's going on, and requires making decisions that favor community quality and cohesion over stuff like continued high rates of growth of the userbase, traffic, revenue, etc.

And scaling issues just make the problem of community management understandably harder and more resource-intensive. Early Metafilter was workable as a solo gig when it was a few hundred relatively tight-knit people, but at this point we're operating with on the order of ten thousand at least minimally-engaged users as a small team of paid moderators, and even that's a bit of a strain at times. It'd be far more of a strain if there wasn't a really solid sense of baked-in site culture lending a continuity of community ethos and a real sense of shared responsibility to the non-moderator proceedings here.

So reddit has this sort of impossible task: deal with massive, massive scale issues without a proportional staff of paid moderators and with a userbase that has, in fractions, gotten used to a baked-in sense that a lot of horrible stuff is anywhere between loathsome but worth defending on principle and actively what they want from the site. And I don't envy anyone the task of trying to deal with that. But part of what makes it an impossible task is that they're not willing to go to war with the shitty elements of their site culture and userbase. That some slurry of principle and profit-motive and conservatism and cowardice drives a top-level response of inaction, of disinclination to do the hard thing and say "it is worth damaging our bottom line and alienating users to make this a better place for non-racist, non-sexist, non-shitty people to spend time."

Reddit is what Reddit is in very significant part because the people who call the shots at Reddit value keeping the ball rolling over actively, aggressively fighting the bad parts of their site culture. They are unwilling to risk damaging the model, even if the model actively and conspicuously abets some of the worst, most vile shit on the entire Internet. That's how you get a decline; that's how Reddit degrades.

Sure, this buffet has a bin labelled "MysteryGravy" that is actually raw sewage

Hey now, I've got dibs on the restaurant-that-also-serves-sewage metaphor, dang it.
posted by cortex at 6:51 PM on March 10, 2015 [51 favorites]


> I've been on metafilter long enough to know that calling out any individual, about whose daily life and struggles you know very little, for not doing their part on any given issue to organize or participate in whatever is the social justice item of the moment, is unproductive.

I don't personally care what you do, or don't do, regarding reddit. Life is busy, we all have a limited amount of bandwidth blahblahblah. But then why bother to say anything at all about how you would do a thing except you're not going to do it? That just seems weird.
posted by rtha at 6:51 PM on March 10, 2015


I have great disdain for the general community of reddit. Anyone who says you have to go looking for racism/misogyny/assholery must not read comments on any discussion that is remotely tangential to any current events or mentions a woman or POC. Shit, even on the makeup subreddit I go on there are periodic discussions where non-white women say "Hey, it sucks there aren't more WOC posting here" and white women say "WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS COMPLAINING GO TO THE BROWN PERSON MAKEUP SUBREDDIT UGH" or people bitching that trans* posts get upvoted too often. I still go on a number of subs, I enjoy the information I learn there, I appreciate the mods who are heavyhanded, but not for a moment do I forget the general populace tends to be a bunch of dickholes. Because they make it *impossible* to forget that.
posted by schroedinger at 7:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Overtly racist/sexist internet bastions such as the ones mentioned in this article are certainly a bad thing, but I think that the most noxious form of racism, and sexism, are found right on the front page of Reddit ( r/funny, r/pics, r/TIL, etc.), coming from people who pretend to know better. The binary way of seeing things as racist/not racist (sexist/not sexist) is why people who do not consider themselves racist say, do, and think things that are hurtful and destructive. It's easy to think "I'm not racist/sexist/homophobic, so of course I can say X", when in fact X is something that reinforces a destructive norm.
posted by willrudisill at 7:09 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm interested to see how reddit evolves now that /u/yishan is gone. He was so, so bad as a community manager.

While I am relatively pleased with my reddit experience, I don't think I can recommend it any more. I took down my profile guide to reddit. If you want to put in the effort, I can only encourage you to subscribe to the most specific (or most explicitly, restrictively moderated) subreddits possible. For example, when people say that gaming subreddits are good, they are talking about subreddits for specific games, because no way in hell are they talking about /r/gaming or even /r/Games.

The reddits for specific programming languages are pretty good. I'd like to give /r/rust a specific shoutout for having a code of conduct that they are very happy to enforce (I've never seen a banhammer wielded so gleefully as by /u/kibwen). /r/haskell has a weak set of community guidelines but the default culture is oriented towards learning and productivity.

I've never seen racism on /r/programming, but sexism is the default. The only reason to subscribe to it is that a lot of links to stuff relevant to programmers don't get posted to specific language reddits.

Probably the best way to avoid all of the shittiness is to simply not read the discussion there. Consume reddit via RSS. Use the normal UI to find a few places that post interesting links, but rather than subscribe to them, add .rss to the ends of the subreddit urls and put them in your RSS reader. I haven't done that since the death of Reader, but if you don't feel like wading through the shit it's the way to go.
posted by Jpfed at 7:11 PM on March 10, 2015


Can you explain why you draw the "platform/non-platform" boundary at Reddit and Twitter versus the rest of the internet, instead of good subreddits versus bad ones, or the internet versus other media?

Reddit is a privately-owned platform in a way that subreddits are not, and that the internet as a whole is not. By using any subreddit you are supporting and validating that platform, which helps support and validate the flagrant and persistent hatemongering taking place elsewhere on the site.
posted by oulipian at 7:13 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also one time I saw a Quora answer with both /u/yishan and Jessamyn and I wanted her to reach through the internet and slap some sense into him.
posted by Jpfed at 7:13 PM on March 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Rangi: "As for Twitter, I don't use it myself, but don't you only see tweets from people you choose to follow?"

I'm pretty sure this is not the case. You can definitely be tweeted at and it's one of the main actualizations of the sealioning cartoon (e.g.: people filling up your Twitter feed with replies & mentions every time you say anything about #Gamergate).
posted by mhum at 7:16 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can you explain why you draw the "platform/non-platform" boundary at Reddit and Twitter versus the rest of the internet, instead of good subreddits versus bad ones, or the internet versus other media? All I can think of is that since sites have central owners/admins, you expect them to police their platforms, and the internet as a whole has no such mechanism. But after all, that's what the individual subreddit moderators are for.

So here's how i see it. I think frat houses are actually a great comparison. Everyone involved in them is legally an adult, and they're expected at least to an extent to mostly police themselves with the help of some other theoretically more mature involved adults. The problem is, those adults have a vested interest in the status quo and not acknowledging anything is wrong.

Which is why sometimes the college itself has to step in.

Reddit admins are like the college admins that refuse to step in because then they have to acknowledge they were just letting the problem fly. Even if they're going to say it's the moderators problem, they still have a responsibility to act if the mods aren't doing their fucking job(or are doing a dongbrained awful job).

So yes, to answer your question, i think it IS because they have central owners and admins. Another good example would be Action Park. You can't just put drunk teenagers in charge underneath yourself and then say "well hey, they were supposed to be supervising, what were we supposed to do?".

Them trying to disown and not talk about their responsibility and culpability does not relieve them of it.

I also think that the way they've tried to grow a sitewide "community", and constantly refer to the reddit community is pretty damning when it comes to the "subreddits are islands" type of arguments that people have made here, and that they occasionally even try and make themselves.

You can't have it both ways. Either it's some hosting platform like the old free phpbb sites, or it's one big community. You can't have some amalgamation of both that leaves everyone with the responsibilities of neither as is convenient.
posted by emptythought at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm sorry, this is a ramble, but watching reddit evolve (for me) has felt a lot like watching that smart kid you knew in high school gradually turn into the guy that stocks shelves at the grocery store who rants at you about racist conspiracy theories.

I've been on reddit (not continuously because it is awful) since before subreddits as well, and while I guess the racism has gotten worse, the misogyny has been there all along.

I delete my account and comments every now and again and start over with a new username, and consistently, when I was obviously female, at best, I'd be ignored or downvoted, and at worst harassed. If I posted anything on a technical subject, I was clearly an idiot who had no idea what I was talking about. Any observation I made was met with extreme skepticism, and I was often accused of lying. If I said anything at all about any gender related topic, someone would threaten me somehow.

When I had a male sounding username, I was some sort of wise sage on technical subjects, and my random little observations were taken as gospel. I posted some short little anecdote about getting patronized by customer service or something, and I got a couple of guys messaging me with heartfelt encouragement and outsized outrage about the way I'd been treated. It was hilarious, because I knew damned well that if they knew I was female, it wouldn't have bothered them a bit.

Much of the internet, including Metafilter, wasn't much better at the time either, so maybe it seemed less egregious relatively speaking, but it was not good.
posted by ernielundquist at 7:32 PM on March 10, 2015 [23 favorites]


Rangi: "On the other hand, there's a private ideal of free speech that is broader than the mere legal right: the idea that all viewpoints should be heard, even the repulsive ones, because (a) the best way to marginalize repulsive views is to out-argue them"

Except sometimes you don't want to spend your time out-arguing people who think you don't deserve basic human rights because of your gender or race or sexual orientation or whatever. You want to talk with people who take that it as a given that of course you do. I've used the example before if you're Buzz Aldrin you don't want to prove that the moon landings weren't faked every time you talk about the moon.

The "neutral" approach to this in Reddit culture I think is bundled up in the anti "brigading" attitude which I can kind of get behind but there's enough people who will say what they're doing doesn't count if it's not VOTE brigading, or it's only bad when it targets other subreddits, so targeting non-Reddit stuff is fair game. Or as mentioned above:
schroedinger: "the genpop of Reddit goes there to espouse their opinions about how one woman or the other was really asking for it and women who have babies didn't really want those careers anyway."

They weren't brigading, they just need to make sure everyone hears THEIR opinion on this matter which is very IMPORTANT because otherwise it's a CIRCLEJERK of feminists who think jet fuel can melt steel wake up SHEEPLE.

In conclusion, land of contrasts.
posted by RobotHero at 7:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Also, i've posted this before, but i think it's a worthwhile comparison.

4chan is widely regarded as a shithole. I feel like everyone here knows that. A friend of mine in high school(who was a senior, and 18, the photos weren't illegal) posted naked pictures of herself online at one point including on /b/. Later she got identified and started getting e-stalked and harassed so she deleted the photos from her photobucket, etc.

One day she was browsing /b/, and saw the photos of herself.

So she got on the 4chan IRC channel(which might still exist?) where most of the admins and mods, and a bunch of real weirdos hung out and asked for help. Several staff members replied, and one of the mods PMed her, asked for details, then deleted the thread. They got reposted, mod replied to the thread and said you can't post these, banned the person and deleted the thread again. He also gave her his AIM and said to contact him if she got harassed by people who were obviously channers.

Later, when they added the functionality, the photos were added to a killfile. A couple other people got banned for mspainting stuff on the photos and posting them.

That's fucking 4chan. 4chan. In a million years, can you ever imagine reddit admins doing that?

They also kicked out gamergate, disallowed invasions after a relatively short period of time, and have banned child porn and even borderline creepshots type stuff that might be child porn for at least 8 years.

This is the bar they're limboing under as admins. 4chan has, by comparison, significantly higher standards.

It's like making a crappier skateboard than walmart or something. It feels like you have to put effort in to getting there. Like skydiving vs flying a plane straight at the ground with the engine maxed out.
posted by emptythought at 7:41 PM on March 10, 2015 [74 favorites]


And scaling issues just make the problem of community management understandably harder and more resource-intensive. Early Metafilter was workable as a solo gig when it was a few hundred relatively tight-knit people, but at this point we're operating with on the order of ten thousand at least minimally-engaged users as a small team of paid moderators, and even that's a bit of a strain at times. It'd be far more of a strain if there wasn't a really solid sense of baked-in site culture lending a continuity of community ethos and a real sense of shared responsibility to the non-moderator proceedings here.

reddit only recently started hiring "community managers" to keep up with the scaling problems. It might be worth noting that the reddit TOS says "You may not perform moderation actions in return for any form of compensation or favor from third-parties." You would not believe how hard it is to prevent corruption, especially in very large subreddits. There isn't a huge supply of incorruptible people who are willing to moderate subreddits for free. Fortunately, most of the incorruptibles tend to stand firm against other corrupting influences of sexism, racism, etc.

So reddit has this sort of impossible task: deal with massive, massive scale issues without a proportional staff of paid moderators and with a userbase that has, in fractions, gotten used to a baked-in sense that a lot of horrible stuff is anywhere between loathsome but worth defending on principle and actively what they want from the site. And I don't envy anyone the task of trying to deal with that. But part of what makes it an impossible task is that they're not willing to go to war with the shitty elements of their site culture and userbase. That some slurry of principle and profit-motive and conservatism and cowardice drives a top-level response of inaction, of disinclination to do the hard thing and say "it is worth damaging our bottom line and alienating users to make this a better place for non-racist, non-sexist, non-shitty people to spend time."

I think there are two primary problems here. The first is resources, both human and financial. Priority goes to system threats. If you want to see the reddit admins take quick action, do something that is destructive to their software operations. Pro Tip: do not coordinate a DDoS on reddit from a subreddit.

The other issue is that they believe reddit is structured to work around social problems. It must be some sort of libertarian fantasy, I don't know where they got the idea. I saw one comment in this thread that kind of hints at this structure:

What about /r/[mycityname]happy (eg: /r/chicagohappy) or something like that. I'm sure there are plenty of folks that want to discuss your city without ugly racist undertones. With some nonracist moderation in a new subbreddit, you could have the discussions you want.

Yes, that is exactly how the reddit model is designed, if you don't like a subreddit, create a better one and people will follow. It's a nice dream. This general idea is behind a lot of reddit system structures, they are intended to route around problems. For example, I had some long talks with an admin about trolls. He said that mods should have a hair trigger for bans. Sure the trolls can just create a new account just as easily as you can kill them. But he said, casual trolls usually don't have much persistence, when they see their comments disappear so quickly. They can sink a lot of energy into it, and it's all for nothing. They aren't able to build any presence when mods can disrupt it so easily. In the past, this was mostly workable, but the truly dedicated trolls will just go on and on. You wouldn't believe the stuff I've seen, I even saw a troll buy ads to get around a ban! These tactics don't last long, and I know the admins have internal methods to prevent dedicated, persistent trolls. The problem is, they can't tell anyone about their internal countermeasures. If they tell people about their countermeasures, they're just teaching people how to get around them.

Reddit is what Reddit is in very significant part because the people who call the shots at Reddit value keeping the ball rolling over actively, aggressively fighting the bad parts of their site culture. They are unwilling to risk damaging the model, even if the model actively and conspicuously abets some of the worst, most vile shit on the entire Internet. That's how you get a decline; that's how Reddit degrades.

Oh poor, poor cortex and his ten thousand users. You would absolutely melt down under the pressures of moderating a top 100 subreddit with hundreds of thousands of users. If you grow large, eventually your userbase tends to reflect the demographics of the world at large. And the world, by and large, is full of idiots. This is a much harder problem to solve. But occasionally, there are signs of hope for the world. Some of them even happen on reddit.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:48 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I like reading websites that cater to people who think people like me are everything wrong with the world.

I'm left-of-center, so I read redstate (I've been banned twice!) and townhall and nro because there is a real and thriving culture in these places, an entire civilization, and I feel like I had better know what they are saying and try to understand, as much as I can, why they are doing it.

I'm also Jewish, so reddit's default subs, plus r/conspiracy has been enormously helpful to me for the same reason. I am not a Zionist for many reasons, but I like unrestricted speech on the internet because it helps me watch my back and the back of others.
posted by oneironaut at 7:54 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh, and speaking of misogyny, here's another half-remembered Reddit anecdote where I wish had taken screenshots or bookmarks. A while back there was a fairly benign post in r/AdviceAnimals (I know, I know) that was basically a woman recounting how grateful she was that she could have dinner and a movie with her ex-boyfriend (a Good Guy Greg, I think) and not have him put the moves on her. The comments section basically exploded into a burning mess of "how dare you lead him on" and "you're just using him for free food and Netflix" and so forth to the point where the mods had to lock the thread.

A short time later (a few days?), there was another post on r/AdviceAnimals (possibly a Confession Bear) where a fellow was claiming to be using photos of a handsome dude to make fake dating profiles in order to scam women, either by getting the women to send him nude pix or by setting up dates, standing them up, and then swooping in with his real dating profile. The comments section to that post was filled with lots of "that's awesome" and "teach me your ways".
posted by mhum at 7:55 PM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


I haven't seen this posted yet in this thread, but here goes:

What if all the reasonable, non-racist, non-sexist non-asshole people who like the buffet but are sick of the sewage being served and splattered around just open up a nice buffet restaurant across the street? Something with the Reddit feel, without the sewage. And big bouncers who muscle out anyone bringing in a bucket of sewage, or little bits of sewage in their pockets that they try to sprinkle on the mac & cheese.

There must be some reason(s) why this must be a dumb idea, but I just don't get it. Take the nice communities around various subreddits with you. Is the Reddit interface some kind of rocket science, or can it be approximated elsewhere? Aren't there are a lot of people who would be interested in having a nice, fun, safe space that is like Reddit only without the horrible parts?

Surely there are some people willing to step up as programmers, moderators, etc. And of course you'd have to fend off the bad people who would surely want to mess with it.

Pipe dream here: mass exodus. Because working within the system doesn't help, from what I'm hearing. Don't just stop giving them your eyeballs and contributions, take your content and your traffic away somewhere safe and snub the hell out of them.
posted by megafauna at 7:57 PM on March 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


As with wikipedia, the more remote and niche your subreddit is, the better the experience will be (ymmv).

On the subject of nerdy, loud, unpopular white guys being the assholes? Yeah, its like the one insufferable pseudo philosopher at a party of 30 people. You keep hearing him because no one's pushed him into a room with his navel gazing buddies (or to apply it to reddit, there are still default subs. There should not be default subs.
posted by Slackermagee at 8:01 PM on March 10, 2015


Wow, I've been on Reddit for going on 10 years and I was not aware of any of these racist subreddits, although in hindsight it doesn't surprise me too much. I've been tempted to switch my /etc/hosts/ to send reddit.com to 127.0.0.1 for a while, this might seal the deal.
posted by furtive at 8:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is the Reddit interface some kind of rocket science, or can it be approximated elsewhere?

The Reddit web site, certain anti-spam measures notwithstanding, is open source. Reddit clones have been made (e.g. hubski).
posted by Jpfed at 8:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


/bad internet jokes
reddit = AOL groups
discuss?
posted by daq at 8:09 PM on March 10, 2015


Pipe dream here: mass exodus.

There's a group on reddit who think there's already too much control there, and are immigrating to voat.co. Maybe all the assholes will end up there.
posted by fivebells at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2015


Apropos of nothing in particular: seems to me the term "community manager" is another sign of the creeping corporatization of the whole Internet, and I am sad that it seems to be sticking in the common lexicon. One more tiny incremental step toward the utter extirpation of the promise that we could do things differently, with some political and social imagination, online, and instead toward conceptualizing any and all social relationships in the terms of the banal top-down exercise of corporate managerial power. Most likely this is a politico-linguistic peeve not even worth the few bits and moments it took me to to point it out here, but it does seem marginally related to the way a website born from the communitarian activist imagination of a guy like Aaron Swartz could so easily turn into a corporate-owned "free speech" cesspool.
posted by RogerB at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Oh poor, poor cortex and his ten thousand users. You would absolutely melt down under the pressures of moderating a top 100 subreddit with hundreds of thousands of users.

That's rather starkly missing the point. I'm not interested in moderating a subreddit with hundreds of thousands of users. I'm not even interested in moderating a Metafilter with hundreds of thousands of active users. The whole thrust of my comment is that managing large crowds is difficult and resource-intensive, and that valuing accruing that sort of large crowd while failing to prioritize the assignment of those necessary resources is a recipe for a bad, unmanageable situation.
posted by cortex at 8:19 PM on March 10, 2015 [49 favorites]


The whole thrust of my comment is that managing large crowds is difficult and resource-intensive, and that valuing accruing that sort of large crowd while failing to prioritize the assignment of those necessary resources is a recipe for a bad, unmanageable situation.

Of course, but you're sort of missing my point too. reddit relies on unpaid volunteers to manage their users. There has to be some sort of value proposition to keep the volunteers active, and in sufficient numbers to keep ahead of the chaos. It is probably obvious what value spammers and trolls get, and some people just want to watch the world burn. Altruistic volunteers get nothing but the satisfaction of seeing their community working. And that is so easy to disrupt. Perhaps it is a leap of faith, an optimistic delusion that amidst the mud, something beautiful might flower. Maybe more people should have this sort of delusion.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:30 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or, maybe it is that "optimistic delusion that amidst the mud, something beautiful might flower" that is part of the problem, since delusions are what drive some people to walk out into traffic, confident that nothing can hurt them.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:38 PM on March 10, 2015


The reddits I follow are thankfully not full of as much hate, and just like google safesearch, I don't go looking.

so, there are some good things there.

but I do feel more engaged here, with a variety of topics, viewpoints and user answers.
posted by dreamling at 8:47 PM on March 10, 2015


Maybe more people should have this sort of delusion.

Maybe, but this isn't a value proposition to keep the volunteers active.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:53 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Internet as it exists now allows people to build their own forums to discuss whatever they want on unique sites. Earlier on I guess you had news groups and things like that that were technologies that people had to go to to meet the like minded. But that was a contained technology, like reddit. I know if you're interested in kittens or racism there are forums other than reddit out there. So, how does a technology like reddit become so influential when you can go elsewhere? Easy interface?
It makes me think about the end of Tron, lots of lights out of one big dumb powerful thing. I look forward to seeing what comes after it.
posted by PHINC at 8:59 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even if you've got the good intention of trying to sprout flowers, you're still responsible for the pile of manure you gathered as part of your effort.

'Cause it's attracting flies.

And some parts are really smelling ripe.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:01 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, no more analogies.
posted by cashman at 9:03 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Reddit just feels gross, even when what you're actually reading is benign. I used it for a couple months awhile back and I started to really not like how it was making me feel.
posted by saul wright at 9:06 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Reddit web site, certain anti-spam measures notwithstanding, is open source.

And that is the embodiment of the original problem. It's like the olden days when Linux didn't have drivers for your printer and the linux people would tell you to write your own. And if you didn't like it, you could always use Windows 95. This is the old libertarian dream underneath open source projects.

Okay, no more analogies.

Just be glad I edited out my "rising tide lifts all boats" analogies from my earlier post. It kind of died a tortured death when I observed there are no tides in small freshwater lakes, and then the ocean...
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:16 PM on March 10, 2015


Oh poor, poor cortex and his ten thousand users.

That's my first public sighting of someone being a dick to cortex since his Upgrade. Didn't take long, and certainly speaks to the levels of stress that led at least in part to Matt finally throwing in the old towel.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:17 PM on March 10, 2015 [44 favorites]


One thing that Reddit and Metafilter both have in common is that as online entities they don't really care what I think.
posted by ovvl at 9:18 PM on March 10, 2015


a rising sewer grows all flowers (the flowers are racist)
posted by NoraReed at 9:21 PM on March 10, 2015 [19 favorites]


I literally just made a reddit account a week ago. I'm using it to monitor and post in specific, highly moderated subreddits. /r/LeagueOfLegends is pretty well run as an example, and it's usually better for discussion than Riot's official forums.

I think a big advantage of Reddit is ease of entry and unification of disparate interests. It's actually pretty hard to find communities/forums that specialize in niche topics and are still active, but with reddit it's easy to search the subreddit list and find whatever weird niche you want. If I want to read about electronic music, psychology, and video games I can join 3 different forums that all feel and work very differently, or I can join some subreddits and get a feed that unifies them. Reddit has replaced usenet in all ways, good and bad.

If a system could exist that works as well as Reddit's, and excluded the 10% of the population that I would really prefer to never talk to, I would switch to that in a second. But, I'm really not sure how anyone would create such a system, it takes years to reach the kind of critical mass needed to support niches and I don't personally have any ideas for how to build and maintain something that big so crafting an alternative doesn't seem practical. I guess the choice comes down to rather you want to try and make reddit better, or give up and boycott/avoid it, hard choice that I'm not sure about as I just started interacting with it.
posted by JZig at 9:27 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


Reddit is what Reddit is in very significant part because the people who call the shots at Reddit value keeping the ball rolling over actively, aggressively fighting the bad parts of their site culture.

Also, frankly, it's because the general Reddit population tolerates, accepts, or even favors that culture. Look at all the people going "oh, Reddit isn't so bad if you do X,", making excuses, or flat out saying the "bad parts" are worth what they get from the site. Because bottom line, access to hobby sites is simply more important than not supporting an incredibly toxic culture.

I think I'm going to go reread "Walking Away From Omelas" again.
posted by happyroach at 9:33 PM on March 10, 2015 [8 favorites]


The reason Reddit and Condé Nast don't address Reddit's hate speech is the same reason Bill Cosby doesn't respond to rape allegations.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Except it's not only just "hate speech" anymore. More like some extreme fetishism of hatred-fueled propaganda.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 9:45 PM on March 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


If a system could exist that works as well as Reddit's, and excluded the 10% of the population that I would really prefer to never talk to, I would switch to that in a second.

This is an interesting thought.

It's possible to fork reddit, but the community won't follow you; existing reddit clones haven't grown much. Easier than this, probably, would be to fork the Reddit Enhancement Suite and make the killfile functionality (the "hard ignore" option of User Tagger) draw from a shared blacklist. There were some people that did something similar to this for Twitter in response to GamerGate, I think; how did that work out?
posted by Jpfed at 9:54 PM on March 10, 2015


There were some people that did something similar to this for Twitter in response to GamerGate, I think; how did that work out?

I haven't followed it closely but it seems to be quasi working. The system basically works by seeing what other users a twitter user follows, and if it's > x% GamerGate, treat the user as a GamerGate user and block them. As you would expect GGs are complaining of "censorship" about it. I've also heard of the same tactic being used by mainstream game journalists who are GG leaning to ignore "SJW" users the same way. I can see this escalating into an actual feature of twitter eventually, some way to soft-wall yourself off from other people.

Another potential tactic to replace Reddit could be some sort of forum-aggregator, that takes content from multiple forums you belong to and makes a federated stream of the most popular 10 threads. But I don't know how you would do that when forums all use such different authentication setups. That's another advantage of being centralized like Reddit, single auth makes federation trivial.
posted by JZig at 10:04 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


There were some people that did something similar to this for Twitter in response to GamerGate, I think; how did that work out?

GGAutoblocker. And it worked well. Based on the screams of "censorship!" from the gators, you could assume it worked very well.

Some subreddits use a variation of the method you suggested. There's a bot called AutoModerator which can block people based on certain criteria. For example, the anti-gamergate sub GamerGhazi uses the bot to automatically block people who have greater than X amount of karma in KotakuInAction (the pro-gamergate sub). For the subs willing to use it that way, it's very useful.

I would love to see a shared blacklist. I think one could be generated from looking for people with X amount of karma from the terrible places like KotakuInAction, TumblrInAction, MensRights, TheRedPill, Conspiracy, and the other major hangouts of the racists, misogynists, and general scum. Could also use SRS posts as an automated way to add users to the blacklist. Also, could get volunteers to poke their heads into the sewers of the defaults to add users who only post in those subs.
posted by honestcoyote at 10:09 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


the awful thing about the "reddit is the only place with a good forum for (obscure subtopic)" is that it means you have to put up with whatever background radiation of shit is there in order to talk about that subject with only other people who are willing to deal with that stuff too; you're still made complicit in the awfulness of the site's culture and you're expecting volunteer moderators to keep that awful culture at bay. and maybe you end up with something reasonably not terrible a lot of the time, but as soon as anything related to marginalization comes up in any way, you get people whose bigotry filters are calibrated so out-of-whack that really egregious stuff is okay. it gets really gross really fast. and when stuff on those subs end up on /r/all, the comments get full of awful shitlords; the moderators sometimes get totally overloaded in that kind of situation.
posted by NoraReed at 10:09 PM on March 10, 2015 [12 favorites]


the awful thing about the "reddit is the only place with a good forum for (obscure subtopic)" is that it means you have to put up with whatever background radiation of shit is there in order to talk about that subject with only other people who are willing to deal with that stuff too

Seriously. I've seen people mirror benign links to an article on Kotaku on some other server, presumably just so that racist/sexist Redditors could avoid spoiling their precious ideological purity through a page view.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:36 PM on March 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sorry, I don't understand. Is Kotaku considered to be "impure" by some Redditors? And viewed through which ideology?

I bet this is GamerGate-related. I never really got the hang of GamerGate.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:22 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reddit: It is the best of the internet, it is the worst of the internet.

I'm fairly new to Reddit vs my membership to MF. I find a lot of good content at Reddit and I find a lot of really horrible stuff. I'm always appreciative that I can come back to MetaFilter for non-abusive conversations; even the best of Reddit has the worst of people visiting and commenting.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:33 PM on March 10, 2015


Is Kotaku considered to be "impure" by some Redditors? And viewed through which ideology?

I bet this is GamerGate-related.


The reddit home of GamerGate is /r/KotakuInAction.
posted by Jpfed at 11:34 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


benito.strauss: "Is Kotaku considered to be "impure" by some Redditors? [...] I bet this is GamerGate-related. I never really got the hang of GamerGate."

Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: OMG yes.

If you've avoided getting into the minutiae of Gamergate for this long, you probably don't need all the gory details. Suffice it to say, Kotaku's coverage of Gamergate has been decidedly unsympathetic to their "cause". We can skip over the part where Eron Gjoni's initial screed (the one that kicked off this whole dumpster fire) included some false accusations involving Nathan Grayson, a Kotaku writer.
posted by mhum at 11:37 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a long and incredibly boring story, but Kotaku is considered bad by gators for their own ridiculous reasons. I won't get into those reasons as I'd have to make a sanity check if I wrote this stuff down. And my luck with the dice has been horrid lately.

Since it's part of the Gawker empire, it's also considered bad by some Redditors who hate Gawker for unmasking Violentacrez (who ran the jailbait sub as well as other incredibly dark subs).

For a time, even the Reddit admins banned any direct Gawker link, and then backed down. Not sure why they backed down, but it was probably because people with sense told the admins it looked like they were defending borderline child porn. Which, in their brogressive version of libertarianism, they basically were.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:39 PM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just wanna say I agree with emptythought 100%, and that they basically said everything I wanted to.

A lot of the content on the defaults isn't racist or sexist, but the comments are, and you don't need to look very far to find them. They are almost always the most up voted comments, which is saying that the majority of users agrees with them. When a racist post has 6000 up votes and is gilded, what is that suppose to mean? People on reddit will tell you it's "just a joke", but it's pervasive, and then there are comment chains continuing it. If you go against the majority you're down voted and ridiculed.

SRS, circlebroke, circlebroke2, subredditdrama are pretty much the safest places on reddit, with SRS the safest imo (it's also a massive circlejerk). Someone's criticism of SRS was that it's putting shitty comments up front, but that's the point, those comments are already up front. They're right in front of you the entire time. I pretty much only look at the comments because I can guess what sexist or racist shit is going to be said before I see them and I look to see if I'm right. Subredditdrama has begun to post less drama and more anti-social justice comment stuff, with the circlebrokes doing the same.
posted by gucci mane at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2015


Start censoring this stuff which we all agree is abhorrent, and eventually you'll see something you love censored.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:00 AM on March 11, 2015


mhum: "Oh, and speaking of misogyny, here's another half-remembered Reddit anecdote where I wish had taken screenshots or bookmarks."

Oh by the way, in case anyone cares, I managed to find the two posts I was thinking of: Two days apart.
posted by mhum at 12:04 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Start censoring this stuff which we all agree is abhorrent, and eventually you'll see something you love censored.

So... you're saying that if we filter out this vast quantity of sewage, at some point there might be something of value caught within it? *shrug* Everything has a false-positive/false-negative rate, so really it's a question of what you're optimizing for.

I'd be firmly willing to bet that taking a stronger screen to the Internet would gain more [good-quality content from people not being driven away] than it would [remove good content, either from filters or from people being driven away by not being able to post sewage].

In fact, I've already put $5 down on it. I've chosen to be here.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:14 AM on March 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


Start censoring this stuff which we all agree is abhorrent, and eventually you'll see something you love censored.

I totally have the right to follow you around in public, at work and at home, screaming obscenities at you.
posted by happyroach at 12:29 AM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


"... this aggressive racist shit is entirely invisible to me."

Racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia are already partially invisible to me due to privilege. Technical tricks to further conceal how toxic an environment I'm in would only make the problem worse.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:35 AM on March 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, it is so very weird to read this thread for me. My account on reddit is in the 9 year club (same number of years as the founders). I think reddit has changed dramatically since back when me and my friends read it for the programming and philosophy articles. To be honest, I used to use reddit way more than now, as the type of place it has evolved into is different than the type of place I want to hang out. For some reason, though, I still cruise reddit, maybe once a week, spending an hour or so, logged out, reading the frontpage and the default subreddits.

What I will say is that the quality of discussion has plummeted. I will also qualify this by saying I'm pretty thick-skinned, so it's possible that I'm missing a lot of the offense in all the comments I'm reading. But it seems to me, skimming the first five or ten (or twenty when it's a decent post) top comment threads, I'm not often seeing racism, sexism, offensive shit, or all the other things people here are complaining about.

This is not to say that I doubt the existence of such content on reddit--the OP here proves that these things exist on the site. But I do believe that reddit's frontpage is probably a good reflection of its users--juvenile, sometimes a bit offensive, but also quick to downvote unpopular opinions of whatever sort.

Which leads me to this: I'm not a sensitive person by any means. It's hard to shock or offend me. I do not require trigger warnings for anything, though I totally agree they're useful for others. Metafilter is the single most sensitive community I'm a part of on the internet. Sometimes I roll my eyes at the things people here claim are offensive. But what I don't understand is this huge push to label reddit as this horrible shithole by these same sorts of people. If you're reading the same frontpage as me, and you're so horribly offended by it, why not just stop visiting reddit and be done with it? I don't see many posts here about Stormfront's site, or any other site people might find offensive. So why bother spending so much time trying to convince reddit's management that they need to change?

The way I see it, reddit's overlords have made clear indications of their outlook: Moderation is up to the community, we're not helping beyond what is legally required, like it or not. So that means if you're offended by what reddit is (/has become) you have three options:

- Read reddit, don't contribute, maybe try to make it palatable via whatever filtering
- Read reddit, contribute, try to shape the community the way you see fit
- Stop reading reddit

I totally do not understand the type of person that would choose the option of just trying to tell everyone how shitty and terrible reddit is. That would be like me going to reddit and telling them how precious and sensitive MeFi is--why would I do that?

A lot of people here are speaking as though they are great authorities on how to moderate online communities. It mostly sounds like they're talking out of their asses.
posted by ugly at 12:40 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Start censoring this stuff which we all agree is abhorrent, and eventually you'll see something you love censored.

All the "censorship" arguments fail to see that this already has harmful effects, on and off the websites that would be doing the "censorship", including the harassment that spills off of it through sites like TumblrInAction, the hate movements that use it as a recruiting place/springboard (including all these racist organizations and the MRM), and gamergate; there's also all the shit that happens to the real life victims of stuff like creepshots and jailbait, which they occasionally shut down but are super slow in doing so. Those of you who are just shrugging and saying ~oh well what can we do about hate speech you end up having it in a free society~ are not only endorsing a bigoted status quo but are also choosing to ignore the victims of people who use these sites.

A lot of people here are speaking as though they are great authorities on how to moderate online communities. It mostly sounds like they're talking out of their asses.

You don't need a degree and years of experience in waste management to be able to see a broken sewer pipe leaking shit sludge everywhere.
posted by NoraReed at 12:47 AM on March 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


> You don't need a degree and years of experience in waste management to be able to see a broken sewer pipe leaking shit sludge everywhere.

You and I might agree on what is abhorrent. This is not at all the same as building a moderation system for a huge website.
posted by ugly at 12:50 AM on March 11, 2015


1) Participation open to the public
2) Not filled with abhorrent content
3) Financially solvent

Pick two.
posted by Ryvar at 12:55 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


2) and 3) together sound mightily fine, Ryvar.
posted by sukeban at 12:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


"maybe you could ban the egrariously racist subs? the ones that are basically for throwing slurs around and white supremacy? the ones that are SUPER PRO-NAZI" is pretty low-hanging fruit, man, i do not need to be Community Manager Of The Week to know that
posted by NoraReed at 12:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


> maybe you could ban the egrariously racist subs?

Why? Without this thread (and similar MeFi threads on the topic) I would not have even heard of these subreddits's existence. The controller's of reddit have made their ideals known. How about, use reddit if you can bare it, if not, leave and ignore it? Seriously, this thread has singularly highlighted these awful communities more than their existence ever could.
posted by ugly at 1:04 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I totally do not understand the type of person that would choose the option of just trying to tell everyone how shitty and terrible reddit is.

Wait, we're discussing a post ABOUT racism on Reddit, and you cannot comprehend why someone would share an opinion on the topic? The topic that is outlined in the article and this post? So if you have an opinion about.. the article.. that we all just read.. don't.. comment. Hmmmm.

If you don't like the comments here about "how terrible reddit is" then I guess you can not read them and not just complain about how terrible they are.
posted by jess at 1:05 AM on March 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


2) and 3) together sound mightily fine, Ryvar.
posted by sukeban


Yeah, we're sitting in it. Reddit is 1) and 3).

1) and 2) is a million forums so small they haven't hit scaling issues yet.

My point wasn't to cast judgement or say that everything should be X - there's enough electrons on the Internet to explore countless variations on the three possible combinations - but rather to highlight that the difference between an ideal Internet forum and a real Internet forum is that the latter can only have two of those properties.
posted by Ryvar at 1:06 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


> Wait, we're discussing a post ABOUT racism on Reddit, and you cannot comprehend why someone would share an opinion on the topic? The topic that is outlined in the article and this post? So if you have an opinion about.. the article.. that we all just read.. don't.. comment. Hmmmm.

Ah, you're right, I totally framed that incorrectly. I don't want to stop people from commenting on what a shithole reddit has become, I just want to understand why people think it's necessary to try to get reddit's management (who've stated their editorial stance clearly) to change their entire site, when instead those people could just as easily pull up stakes.
posted by ugly at 1:10 AM on March 11, 2015


Is Reddit financially solvent? They're still losing money, right?
posted by ryanrs at 1:17 AM on March 11, 2015


Ryvar should've said "a maximum of two"; they really only manage the "abhorrent content" thing.
posted by NoraReed at 1:21 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


[Hey, folks, we've sort of run into a lot of extended "why not just ignore it?" debates in several discussions of sexism, racism, Gamergate, online harassment/abuse, etc., so in aid of maybe nudging the discussion beyond that particular potential conversational sinkhole, I'll ask that if it needs to be a continued point of discussion, that people engage with the reasons offered rather than continue to repeat the same just-ignore argument without acknowledging those responses. Or if not, you can consider your point stated, and leave it at that. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:36 AM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


How about, use reddit if you can bare it, if not, leave and ignore it?

This is not complete reasoning. Suppose I want my younger cousin, a female college student, to feel comfortable using such a website. What about that?
posted by polymodus at 1:38 AM on March 11, 2015


[A few comments deleted. Ugly, please drop the just-ignore /don't recommend circular argument and rephrasing people's statements to suggest stuff they aren't saying. ]
posted by taz (staff) at 1:58 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


PROBABLY WORTH MENTIONING: Yishan Wong, the former CEO of Reddit, flat-out told the owners of racist subreddits that they could buy their way out of getting their subreddits banner.

Here's the relevant part of Wong's statement; my translation for non-Redditors follows.
Also, we have recently implemented a number of additional benefits (see /r/goldbenefits) for reddit gold users. If you would like to ensure that reddit continues to cater primarily to users, consider buying reddit gold. reddit gold gets you access to feature in beta (/r/multibeta), special gold-only features, and special deals or discounts from our gold partners. You may even wish to give gold to other members of your community by "gilding" their comments. The presence of gilded comments in a subreddit is a great way for us to see if users are truly creating value for other users in those same communities or if their existence is merely a pointless expense. Why, it would certainly be a difficult decision for us to ban a subreddit that habitually prompted many gildings!
In a nutshell:

One way that Reddit makes money is through a program called Reddit Gold. You buy it, you get certain features that basic users don't get. It's a pro account, in other words. But what makes Reddit Gold interesting — especially here — is that you can buy another user gold, for a specific comment, and the site not only gives them your money but marks their comment to let other people know, "Somebody thought this was worth paying for."

What Wong's saying here is, "If people are paying money for comments in a subreddit, that proves how valuable those comments are!" He's not talking about "value" in the monetary sense, although "creating value" is a hilarious euphemism in this context; nah, he's just flat-out saying that if you "gild" a lot of comments on your chosen racist asshole subreddit, then Reddit will have a legitimate reason not to ban your horrible racist asses.

It's flat-out asking for a bribe. And this man was the CEO of Reddit.

___________

charlie don't surf: you're sort of missing my point too. reddit relies on unpaid volunteers to manage their users. There has to be some sort of value proposition to keep the volunteers active, and in sufficient numbers to keep ahead of the chaos. It is probably obvious what value spammers and trolls get, and some people just want to watch the world burn. Altruistic volunteers get nothing but the satisfaction of seeing their community working. And that is so easy to disrupt. Perhaps it is a leap of faith, an optimistic delusion that amidst the mud, something beautiful might flower. Maybe more people should have this sort of delusion.

Yeah, and one of those "unpaid volunteers", Michael Brutsch, otherwise known as /u/violentacrez, was a pedophile and racist who gave birth to many of the racist subreddits being mentioned here, as well as the Creepshots subreddit that led to our last anti-Reddit megathread. His "value proposition", as you so thoughtfully put it — lots of one kind of value being discussed today, and very little of the other sort! — was that if he kept the flat-out child porn off his shadowy regions of the Internet, then he could keep his racisms and his pedophilias.

It should be pointed out that the admins agreed to this deal because they flat-out didn't want to deal with monitoring the site themselves.

___________

But this whole discussion about how communities are delicate flowers that need to be carefully nurtured is bullshit, in the context of Reddit.

Why?

Because Reddit is fucking open source.

Want to start a community? Want to see if "something beautiful might flower"? It'll cost you ten bucks for a domain name, less than five bucks a month for hosting, and a completely free piece of software that functions literally identically to Reddit.com. You don't need to start a subreddit, you can create a community full of subreddits, and you can do it without touching reddit.com once.

D'you know who does this? All the sorely wounded "free speech advocates" that Reddit's alienated in the past couple months. They're fleeing ship to Reddit clones, built with Reddit's own software, so they can do their own thing without Reddit telling them what to do.

The price of moderation is literally just people forming the communities they want to form elsewhere. And you know what? Let them! Let those racist fucks do whatever they want when it's not under one of the banner of one of the the most valuable Internet bands of our era. More importantly, let's have that Internet brand actually give a shit about what that fucking brand entails. That site is a fucking sewer, and the "beautiful flower" that's grown there is an empire of racism and misogyny so vile that it's literally chased women out of their homes. It's responsible for women quitting the gaming industry in droves for their own safety.

So yeah, let's keep talking contemptuously about how ignorant the moderators here are, and how little they understand of the price of running Reddit. It sounds to me like cortex is pretty damn aware of that price, both in terms of effort and in terms of the community that ensues. Which is why MetaFilter exists. And no, we don't have to do the false-equivalency of "Reddit's great, MetaFilter's great, IT'S TWO DIFFERENT GREAT THINGS OKAY" — because it's fucking not true. Reddit has some great subreddits. I love /r/DeepIntoYouTube. That doesn't fucking excuse the rest of Reddit, or the fact that its shitty-ass culture has been literally excused by its CEO.
posted by rorgy at 2:11 AM on March 11, 2015 [41 favorites]


Oh, and for what it's worth I have half a decade's experience as a community manager for sites ranging up to hundreds of thousands of users under my belt.
posted by rorgy at 2:12 AM on March 11, 2015


> Oh, and for what it's worth I have half a decade's experience as a community manager for sites ranging up to hundreds of thousands of users under my belt.

I'd like to point out, reddit has ~20 million users. Your experience with two orders of magnitude fewer users is not relevant.

However, your penultimate post had some very salient points. I had no idea that the CEO said basically that more guilded posts build up a barrier to subreddit bannings. (I actually can't find a link to that post, can you follow up with it?)
posted by ugly at 2:19 AM on March 11, 2015


Can you link to some of these reddit clone sites? I'm curious what people are up to with these reddit alternative sites and how the communities are doing.
posted by andoatnp at 2:22 AM on March 11, 2015


(I actually can't find a link to that post, can you follow up with it?)

Click the link and Ctrl-F "Also". It's right at the top.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:25 AM on March 11, 2015


Sorry! I don't know how I missed the link.
posted by ugly at 2:27 AM on March 11, 2015


@rorgy: Sorry if it sounded insulting, but it's really true that moderating tens and even hundreds of thousands of users is a much different challenge, in terms of policy, engineering, cost, etc., than tens of millions.
posted by ugly at 2:29 AM on March 11, 2015


I'd like to point out, reddit has ~20 million users. Your experience with two orders of magnitude fewer users is not relevant.

And, while they seem to have deleted the post i was trying to find on the official blog(!), and have completely obfuscated vote totals, only a tiny fraction of those accounts vote or post. A lot of people register JUST to see nsfw subs on mobile, or to filter what they see and never use any other functionality.

Reddit is not a regular messageboard where almost every "active" user is a poster. These stats used to be visible, but i guess now they want the sites userbase to seem way bigger for advertising/marketing/valuation purposes. Kind of shady.

I'm currently digging(lol i swear that wasn't intentional) archive.org and other places and googlemining for it, but i swear that it was something like 1-2 million non dormant accounts that have posted in the past whatever number of months it was, and only another small amount like that which had voted. the rest of the "active" accounts just lurked logged in.

i swear i'm not pulling this out of my ass, it's just shockingly hard to find. the 20mil number is absolute bullshit in the same way facebooks "several billion" app installs are ever since they split facebook and messenger in to two apps to double the numbers. total flim flam man BS. Reddit is not that big. Registered accounts do not equal active accounts that post, they just equal the size of your database and your amazon AWS bill.
posted by emptythought at 2:30 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's also pretty trivial to start new accounts, which both inflates the user numbers and makes the site harder for sub mods to prevent abuse
posted by NoraReed at 2:34 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


> These stats used to be visible, but i guess now they want the sites userbase to seem way bigger for advertising/marketing/valuation purposes. Kind of shady.

Well, I didn't know anything of reddit's traffic stats until I made that comment. Then I googled 'reddit user stats' and the first link was this: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/about/traffic

Which turns out my ~20 million number was for monthly unique visitors (generally this means monthly unique IPs visiting the site), but also, this was JUST for /r/askreddit. Presumably, this is a large underestimate of reddit's total monthly traffic.

Getting non-subreddit-specific stats (correcting my previous error), I found: https://www.reddit.com/about/

This shows ~151 million monthly unique visitors. One order of magnitude larger.

If you claim this is all bullshit, I'd be very skeptical. Reddit can't just lie about these things (these stats are used in ad acquisition, and thus are regulated pretty well--they can't just fabricate them).
posted by ugly at 2:39 AM on March 11, 2015


hey

hey i've got an idea

we should talk more about reddit's monthly traffic and less about how it was just named a worse center for racists than stormfront, the web site literally founded by a member of the ku klux klan

orders of magnitude are the real story here, clearly
posted by rorgy at 2:44 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted. Okay everyone, this needs to stop being all about one user. Ugly, you are really consistently derailing, and you need to step back and let this thread get back to the topic. Everyone else can help make that happen. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 2:58 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a reddit account that has apparently been active for 8 years now, which is kind of astonishing to me. It started out basically being like Hacker News is today with a single uncategorized forum but an even smaller audience and so I actually used my standard personal email account name for my username. There was definitely a moment some time after subreddits were introduced where it became clear that it was no longer a good idea to use that account because the character of the user base had changed dramatically and I could easily find myself on the receiving end of an online tantrum with real life implications.

Here's a quick test to see if the water got hot so slowly you don't notice the boil. Go into one of your so-called good niche subreddits and cruise around until you see a post (or realistically, a comment, you'll probably never see her post) from a woman and read the whole tree of replies. Try and do this somewhere you comment yourself and are familiar with what sorts of replies you can expect. Isn't it kind of shocking how harshly she was badgered over weird details? You can predict it at this point! Now keep an eye out for this. It's like the FedEx logo. Once you see the arrow, you can't stop seeing it.

The truth is, there are no good subreddits, there are only subreddits whose subject matter is so narrowly constrained that it can be discussed without getting anywhere near the dreaded "social justice" arena. When things inevitably do drift that way, you're apt to find out that your awesome discussions have been taking place with people who are first in line to throw rotten fruit at anything they view as a pillory.

You're not a bad person if you use reddit, and when I feel something I think might be an earthquake or whatever /r/losangeles is one of the first places I check, but I have zero illusions about the real life state of affairs on reddit.

I urge anyone who wants to be the change they want to see in the world to do so and contribute better content to reddit and downvote the bile, but personally, I'm looking for the next thing and wondering what it'll look like now that the gamification/popularity contest model of content curatorship has been disproven.
posted by feloniousmonk at 3:41 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


This really makes me miss Usenet more and more. Yes, it could be a horrible, spam-infested cesspit, but at least it didn't just belong to one company and I was free to consume it with several clients, thus allowing me to tack on my own ways to manage the bad parts (spam filters, kill filles, thread ignores etc.). Browser extensions are a very, very bad approximation of this.

And I can read several different communities with the same structure -- which I think is the big factor why reddit is so popular. These days, everything has their own home-brewed discussion platform. Sometimes comments are threaded, sometimes they're not. Sometimes you can use HTML, sometimes Markdown, sometimes BBCcode, most often a subset of one of those. Sometimes I can ignore users or threads, sometimes I need an extension for this (let's just hope I'm not on mobile then), sometimes there's no hope...

Welcome to the world-wide web... Strangely enough, my news consumption is free of this problem, as RSS feeds are still common enough, despite attempts to fight them (some platforms, abbreviated content). But discussions? I'd take friggin' FidoNET under DOS text mode on a 14" monitor in an instant if I only had a unified platform.
(And it's not like you couldn't present almost every forum or discussion site as a Usenet server easily enough, the execs are the problem here, not the crappy PHP programmers)

(Although the problem of finding a good hangout for programming topics that isn't too partisan and infested by SF liberweenies seems orthogonal to this.)
posted by pseudocode at 4:03 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Start censoring this stuff which we all agree is abhorrent, and eventually you'll see something you love censored.

Censorship is what governments do. Private entities can publish, or not publish, whatever they feel like.

AP cracking down on the cesspools of reddit is not censorship.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:43 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Censorship! Also known as: editing!
posted by rorgy at 4:48 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've tried to use Reddit off and on for years and have never figured out the attraction. I've found subreddits that are relevant to my interests but I've never really found them to be all that informative and the noise to signal ratio is so high that it's usually way too much work to read. Also maybe Mefi has spoiled me but I find the threaded conversation structure to be frustrating and close to unreadable.
posted by octothorpe at 4:55 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]




I think that what emptythought wrote earlier is really the heart of the problem:
I also think that the way they've tried to grow a sitewide 'community', and constantly refer to the reddit community is pretty damning when it comes to the 'subreddits are islands' type of arguments that people have made here, and that they occasionally even try and make themselves.

You can't have it both ways. Either it's some hosting platform like the old free phpbb sites, or it's one big community. You can't have some amalgamation of both that leaves everyone with the responsibilities of neither as is convenient.
It's not just that reddit is an individual site, run by a company. That is pretty important -- I think it dramatically alters the ethical considerations on both reddit's part and on the part of its patrons. But, even so, that's not the only thing that is happening. The other big thing that's happening is that reddit, even though it's so large, actually is in some sense a community. It's a social identity, there's such a thing as a redditor, which is pretty revealing.

This just reinforces the considerations inherent in the "one site, one company" model because not only is reddit distinct from, say, USENET in this regard, it's also in some real ways a coherent community in aggregate. Which homogenizes the experience to some degree, and in self-reinforcing ways. When a "community" exists, then it naturally develops standards of behavior. Even though there are radically distinct subreddits, there are a number of shared values and biases across the whole of reddit.

If redddit is defended and justified on the basis of being a platform for mass socializing, like twitter or Facebook, then it needs to not be a community, just as neither Twitter nor Facebook are communities (as wholes). Both Twitter and Facebook "culture" really just are internet culture, there's almost no distinction at all. They are mass media. But clearly reddit isn't like that. It's a hybrid -- it's just large enough, and somewhat diverse enough, to be "mass" and to function like a platform, but it's small enough and homogeneous enough, and with a sense of overall community, to be a community. And this is in many respects the worst of all possible worlds because the community part of it has been strongly influenced by the worst possible values and habits ... but it's big enough and diverse enough such that these awful values and habits are visible to people who don't share them and they affect the entire userbase and, worse, reddit is large enough that it has a noticeable affect of all of internet culture and ultimately the culture at large.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:41 AM on March 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


I've found subreddits that are relevant to my interests but I've never really found them to be all that informative and the noise to signal ratio is so high that it's usually way too much work to read

Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?
posted by smackfu at 5:47 AM on March 11, 2015


The truth is, there are no good subreddits, there are only subreddits whose subject matter is so narrowly constrained that it can be discussed without getting anywhere near the dreaded "social justice" arena. When things inevitably do drift that way, you're apt to find out that your awesome discussions have been taking place with people who are first in line to throw rotten fruit at anything they view as a pillory.

Not that one exception matters, but /r/rust really is good. If anyone says anything close to bigotry or historically associated with bigotry /u/kibwen explains what they have done wrong, and if the poster continues they are immediately banned.
posted by Jpfed at 6:14 AM on March 11, 2015


Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?

Here mostly.
posted by octothorpe at 6:48 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I talk about my interests with people I know, in person, on personal blogs, and on Facebook. I belong to a few decent, closed, heavily moderated Facebook groups on particular interests. I also hang out on a few other heavily moderated blogs, like Shakesville, Pharyngula and other Free Thought blogs, and the Scientopia blogs. All of these have in common heavy moderation. As a woman who cares about other people, unmoderated places on the internet, or places like Reddit that are not really moderated in any meaningful way, are not places I visit.

(To be honest, I also have always hated the forum format and threaded discussions, so I also mostly hang out in places that avoid those, too.)
posted by hydropsyche at 7:37 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I use reddit with alienblue, subscribed to about 20 subreddits, all well modded and well away from any SJ or meta-related stuff.

You really don't have to see it if you don't want to.
posted by disclaimer at 7:40 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


You really don't have to see it if you don't want to.

From above:

As I've said before, just because you don't see the septic tank doesn't mean that it's not leaking sewage all over the neighborhood. Self-curation is not the answer.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:42 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


well away from any SJ or meta-related stuff

That doesn't really help if you're interested in social justice issues, though. As it stands you cannot discuss them on Reddit without having mods working constantly to deal with noise and brigading.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:46 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I use reddit with alienblue, subscribed to about 20 subreddits, all well modded and well away from any SJ or meta-related stuff.

You really don't have to see it if you don't want to.


I honestly don't know what you mean by "well away from any SJ or meta-related stuff", but if you mean something like "discussion of anything having to do with women, non-white people, gay people, trans* people, religion, prison reform, education, homelessness, or civil and human rights in general", well, that's ~75% of what I like to talk about, so staying away from it is not really something I want to do.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


The other 25% of what I like to talk about is science, and once I mention that I'm a woman in science, suddenly "SJ or meta-related stuff" comes into play there, too.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2015 [24 favorites]


> You really don't have to see it if you don't want to.

Somebody has to see it. There was an fpp here last year about an AMA that was something like "I'm a woman in science, AMA" and from what I remember of the discussion here, people were like huh, there's way less sexist asshattery than I expected! And then it was noted that the mods of that AMA (and possibly the woman or women doing the AMA? I can't remember) do see the sexist asshatery, and it is their job to deal with it so the AMA is useful and interesting instead of full of sewage leaking everywhere.

True and literal story: My next door neighbors have a drain in their backyard, and they never go in their backyard but maybe twice a year to trim a tree there. This drain developed sewage backup problems; they never noticed because they never used the area. In our building, we noticed a lot because we do use our backyard, and it was impossible for us to ignore. Fortunately, they are good neighbors, and when we told them, they took steps to get it taken care of. They did not just say "Well, don't hang out in your yard," or "Rub some Vicks under your nose and you won't notice the smell," or "It doesn't bother us, therefore it doesn't exist."
posted by rtha at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


Ah, Reddit. I do frequent it, under the same name, mostly as it's a nice place to share my ASOIAF/GOT feels when the show isn't airing and Tumblr goes quiet. That said, it is a hot mess and needs to decide what kind of site it wants to be. Because as more and more stuff like this and the upskirt gets attention, pretty soon it won't be cool for politicians and famous people to do their AMA's without being asked if that's the kind of website they support.

That said, the stuff mentioned in the Gawker post has been known on Reddit for some time. I first heard about it a year ago in a r/worldnews thread that brigading by these certain groups was why that sub could be such shit on certain topics. I'm sure it had been discussed even before then.
posted by bgal81 at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2015


I'm in that crowd who uses reddit for a couple of niche and totally apolitical interests -- in at least one case, a niche interest whose other big forum is actually more racist than the relevant subreddit. And I'm not sure if I'm okay with that on a general level of "this is what I'm giving my support and eyeballs to." But it IS exhausting feeling like I have to wall off my SELF in order to have discussions about niche and apolitical interests, and to have reached the point where I'm just not going to have the "There are a lot of LGBT writers and writers of color who get shut out of mainstream publishing"/"THE FREE MARKET IS BY DEFINITION CORRECT!" argument anymore because I'm sick of it, and...I think Ivan Fyodorovich has it; it's not simple to just set up camp on the outlying islands and declare that the mainland has nothing to do with you, because you're connected by the same polluted water.
posted by Jeanne at 8:17 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone here participate in /r/gamerghazi? That's the GamerGate critic subreddit, the explicitly anti-sexist subreddit that exists mostly to mock the Gator boys in /r/kotakuinaction and elsewhere. I don't read it regularly myself, but whenever I peek in it seems pretty healthy and amusing. I take its existence as a sign that Reddit's policies and mechanisms can work for people other than foul sexists and racists. I'm happy that some folks are willing to put in the moderator effort to create such a ripe place for mocking stupid trolls.
posted by Nelson at 8:20 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, when I hear "well away from SJ related stuff in relation to reddit, what I actually hear is "place where I can't talk about how my experience as a woman [poc, trans* person, disabled person, etc] and how that've n affects my relationship with a given topic." And you know, fuck that noise. My mere existence in the world as a woman shouldn't be a "social justice" issue.

For the record, I'm with sciatrix in that I've never even considered making a reddit account because it has such a horrible reputation for women. My one foray in was following the measurement instructions on /r/abrathatfits. They were indeed super useful, and I wish I were comfortable enough to post a picture of my new bras on reddit to verify that I did the fitting right, but no fucking way I am posting pictures of my boobs on reddit.
posted by ActionPopulated at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2015 [29 favorites]


Nelson - I also visit /r/gamerghazi, less so now that GamerGate seems to be losing steam. It's a very strange mix of fun and depressing.
posted by Jpfed at 8:43 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looking at the Twitter shared killfile, could this be automatically done for subreddits? If someone in the killfile posts, their post is automatically deleted. Forget asking people to keep the muck out of their house, employ a street cleaning service. Also put in something that auto-deletes things from accounts less than 4 days old. Prevent sockpuppets being created to keep spamming stuff.

Although I do have to admit I am a tad tempted to troll the racist subredits with interracial gay pornography. I won't but the thought will make me smile for a few minutes.
posted by Hactar at 9:01 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Looking at the Twitter shared killfile, could this be automatically done for subreddits?

It should be possible to do that by modifying AutoModerator (a killer mod tool made by /u/deimorz before he was hired by reddit).
posted by Jpfed at 9:11 AM on March 11, 2015


Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?


I participate in the thriving and active forum for the band The Fall, which is heavily moderated and over the past few years has become pretty strict about offensive language and insults other than cock or bald headed man or look back bore. It moves fast and is pretty conversational but there's a thread for every gig. Although the userbase is quite old and white there isn't any push back to the recent increase in deleting offensive comments, because everyone just wants to talk about the band and doesn't want to get into stupid fights, although they still manage to find a way.

I also use the Earwolf forums to discuss their podcasts (CBB and HDTGM mostly). I looked a the Earwolf sub-reddit and it was straight up disgusting crap about some of my favorite female comedians. That type of comment is quickly shut down by both the community and the mods on the Earwolf forums. ITs a pretty great forum but also tops off at about 100+ comments per ep. I'm fine with that, I pretty much just like to read threads once and its the perfect amount of discussion for me. I could ignore 1000+ comment threads for the rest of my life and probably be fine.

Lastly I lurk on the Rock Paper Shotgun (you probably don't need a link) forums, also quite active, also with lively discussion and long image threads and juvenile humor and great take downs of crappy games but (gasp!) also heavily moderated and utterly devoid of hate speech. I'd say that because of the scrutiny encouraged by gamergate the RPS forums and comment threads are more strict than other forums I frequent. They even acknowledge their international audience by not allowing the british use of the c-word.

I don't see how this is any different than picking and choosing subreddits. The login info is saved in chrome and I can easily switch from PC to phone without any hassle. When I have visited niche subreddits that I've liked they aren't any larger to more active than the forums I listed and have a limited sense of community. I'm thinking of buildapc/buildapcforme and the Deus Ex subreddit. If the benefit is having a larger userbase, I'm betting there are individual forums that handle those topics better than Reddit.

Is it really that hard to keep 3 or 4 bookmarks for frequently accessed sites?
posted by kittensofthenight at 9:42 AM on March 11, 2015


Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?

TL;DR yeah they're pretty cool
posted by kittensofthenight at 9:43 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I use reddit with alienblue, subscribed to about 20 subreddits, all well modded and well away from any SJ or meta-related stuff.

Perhaps because it's because I'm a woman and therefore ~*sensitive*~ and ~*precious*~, but as stated earlier, in the not-politics-oriented hobby subreddits I visit there is still horrible shit to be found. And if your niche subreddit starts getting popular, well, either you have to orient the sub so general discussion is impossible (see: /r/redditgetsdrawn or /r/askhistorians) or give the sub up to the masses.

People who whine "well just don't go there" are ignoring the fact that has been repeated multiple times: some of these subs have become ground zero for hate groups whose members go on to do things that have real-world consequences. Discussion of the moderation policies of the website that nurtures these communities is part and parcel of addressing and limiting the actions of these groups.
posted by schroedinger at 9:45 AM on March 11, 2015 [16 favorites]


An analogous title would be "How Internet users Became a Worse Black Hole of Violent Racism than the KKK". Reddit contains hundreds of subreddits, containing both the best and worst of the Internet. One of the best things about reddit is free speech. Where else can you go on the Internet and express any opinion you have to a large audience? Expressions of disgusting viewpoints is just an inevitable byproduct of (almost) absolute free speech.
posted by wye naught at 9:46 AM on March 11, 2015


I'm trying and failing to come up with a non-snarky way to ask you to read the thread. This is the best I could do.
posted by ODiV at 9:53 AM on March 11, 2015 [20 favorites]


Does anyone here participate in /r/gamerghazi?

I'm not a heavy poster, but it along with SRS are part of my daily reading. If I post something in a GG thread, I probably found it on Ghazi.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2015


Expressions of disgusting viewpoints is just an inevitable byproduct of (almost) absolute free speech.

Free speech as outlined in your Constitution (and mine) is about governmental action with regards to suppression of speech.

There is no moral imperative, none, nada, zip that requires me to as a private person (or even hypothetically as the owner of a company) to give any airtime to actual Nazis. None.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2015 [23 favorites]


Why is it that "absolute free speech" seems to always coincide with "privileged bullies using their societal megaphone to bully and harass other people out of the conversation"?
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2015 [25 favorites]


Expressions of disgusting viewpoints is just an inevitable byproduct of (almost) absolute free speech.

I just don't think thats true. I play heavy metal music and hang out with a lot of metal people. There's been a big push in the last decade or so (analogous to games but nowhere near as culturally relevant) to shut down and alienate racists, homophobes, mysoginists, etc. and let them know they aren't welcome and that they need to head bang elsewhere.

Some of my close friends have really changed their thinking and the way they use slang/slurs/hate speech. Its a pretty blurry distinction, isn't it? Self 'censoring' only managed to elevate the way we speak to each other and has helped us all work through all kinds of personal baggage and to be better partners, members of our community, etc. I don't think there is anything that HELPS free speech more than trying to communicate clearly and compassionately.
posted by kittensofthenight at 10:03 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


Speaking of metal, a few months back a bunch of gators tried going to metal sites and subreddits and preaching about how metal fans needed to start MetalGate and kick out the SJWs infesting metal. They were... not well received.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone was talking about government free speech. Personally, I'd like the default subreddits to be heavily moderated- that should come with being a default sub. On the subreddits I hang out on, racism gets shouted down in about 3 seconds. (Misogyny, unfortunately, takes about 5 minutes, but it happens.)

Otherwise, I like the free-for-all anarchy of reddit, and I like that the hateful stuff is there to see, unhidden, as a direct contradiction to all the racist-lites who want to say it doesn't exist, and that 1930s Germany could never happen here.

I save my appalled horror for the comment sections of newspapers, which really have no excuse to be as vile as they are.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:09 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is no moral imperative, none, nada, zip that requires me to as a private person (or even hypothetically as the owner of a company) to give any airtime to actual Nazis. None.

Yeah. I very, very strongly believe, as an absolute principle, that our government should not be in the business of making viewpoints or speech illegal, no matter how abhorrent they may be. But that does not mean we, as citizens of that government, have an absolute requirement to tolerate any particular speech.

I'll also note that I'm not really sure that even on an ideological level, the principles of the open marketplace of ideas are really served by these deep dark subreddits. 'Sunlight is the best disinfectant' can't apply to a place where almost no one goes unless they're already indoctrinated.
posted by corb at 10:12 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think I've only clicked an occasional link to /r/gamerghazi, but I'm going to guess that - right now - that sub has lots of enthusiastic volunteers to moderate it.

what I actually hear is "place where I can't talk about how my experience as a woman [poc, trans* person, disabled person, etc] and how that've n affects my relationship with a given topic."

Seriously, one of the subs I frequented was /r/keto (for ketogenic diets), which had to have firm rules about not sexually objectifying people's progress pics, and still wasn't really usable if you were identifiably female because all the responses would be 101 stuff that was irrelevant to the question, or just "you're doing it wrong" with no justification. Women really weren't welcome there unless they were thin and hot. So there was /r/xxketo, which was a little more usable except it was routinely cruised by shitballs looking for an opportunity to hurt someone, still a fair amount of "whatever, doing it wrong" splaining, and bouts of internalized misogyny, people looking for pro-ana support, and links from fatpeoplehate and shit like that.

/r/makeupaddiction also had to have rules to stop people meangirling anyone who posted photos, and still anyone posting a "look" who wasn't a beautiful (but not too beautiful! They were accused of stealing photos from models or photoshopping, and there's was lots of photo forensics to see if photos were doctored) young white woman was downvoted (and I always assumed that this was done by people who were not interested in makeup and just enjoyed doing this, but who knows) so fast nobody ever saw them.

One women-centric sub I followed got added to default and it was ruined within 24 hours. Speculation was that it was done on purpose, to ruin the sub for fun.

The site itself encourages brigading by publicizing it. Being mean for fun and competing in races to the bottom are completely acceptable ways of using the site. These attacks are overwhelmingly directed at anyone who's not a white guy. The entire operating structure of Reddit is pro-white-supremacy, and that is a social term of use you accept when you use any part of the site.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:13 AM on March 11, 2015 [41 favorites]


One of the best things about reddit is free speech. Where else can you go on the Internet and express any opinion you have to a large audience?

Freedom of Speech has nothing to do with the size of the audience. I'm not trying to pick on you, but I hear this implied or outright stated a lot in conversations like these. No one has the right to a large audience for their offensive opinions.
posted by jess at 10:38 AM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yishan Wong, the former CEO of Reddit, flat-out told the owners of racist subreddits that they could buy their way out of getting their subreddits banned.

Everybody should really look at this - I hadn't seen it before. In response to the topic "What impact on reddit will banning the racist subreddits have?" his response:

Apropos of nothing, let me describe a situation that occurs from time to time on reddit:

Users create a community containing, discussing, celebrating, or over time descending into being dominated by distasteful, odious, or otherwise objectionable content. Such is the way of the internet.
Drama and tongue-clucking ensues. Again, such are the ways of the internet.
Users in that community engage in behavior that violates rules on reddit (vote-cheating, brigading, doxxing, etc).
reddit admins respond, bans happen.
Users complain that they were banned due to the objectionable content in their subreddit.
Thus, ironically, objectionable content ends up being used as a "shield" for actual bad behavior.

It really never has anything to do with free speech or political correctness. We have no need to impress any potential investors or acquirers. Even if we did, apparently there's this outdated belief that such entities actually care about things like that, but they often don't. "Family-friendly" is out, "edgy" is in.
reddit doesn't have much of an interest in banning questionable content. We hope for a diversity of content, and work on building tools to help different users discover more of that content (e.g. /r/multibeta).

Also, we have recently implemented a number of additional benefits (see /r/goldbenefits) for reddit gold users. If you would like to ensure that reddit continues to cater primarily to users, consider buying reddit gold. reddit gold gets you access to feature in beta (/r/multibeta), special gold-only features, and special deals or discounts from our gold partners. You may even wish to give gold to other members of your community by "gilding" their comments. The presence of gilded comments in a subreddit is a great way for us to see if users are truly creating value for other users in those same communities or if their existence is merely a pointless expense. Why, it would certainly be a difficult decision for us to ban a subreddit that habitually prompted many gildings!
Good day, ladies and gentlemen.


So uh if anyone was wondering about the institutional issues in play here...
posted by atoxyl at 10:42 AM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


Holy shit, he's actually asking for bribes. Wow, such ethics!
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:49 AM on March 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


Good day, ladies and gentlemen.

tl;dr: "As a dual katana wielding fedorah wearer I believe everything to be awesome."
posted by Artw at 10:51 AM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


> The site itself encourages brigading by publicizing it. Being mean for fun and competing in races to the bottom are completely acceptable ways of using the site. These attacks are overwhelmingly directed at anyone who's not a white guy. The entire operating structure of Reddit is pro-white-supremacy, and that is a social term of use you accept when you use any part of the site.

TIL I'm a white supremacist.

Oh here's an example of a thread where a woman posts about losing weight. Bring on the toxic reddit community!! Except that virtually every comment in the thread is positive. This is from the front page, the cesspool that makes life intolerable for every reasonable person. No doubt they are all nazis or something.

Fetid worthless cesspool of negativity
posted by Ansible at 10:51 AM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


"That thing you're mad about doesn't happen sometimes, so it's fine and you're an asshole for being mad about it."
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:53 AM on March 11, 2015 [32 favorites]


Otherwise, I like the free-for-all anarchy of reddit, and I like that the hateful stuff is there to se<e,


Those of us who are the targets might prefer otherwise. Posting from phone sorry
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:57 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to pick on you, but I hear this implied or outright stated a lot in conversations like these. No one has the right to a large audience for their offensive opinions.

And no-one has a right not to be offended. Reddit became the monster platform that it is because of the freedoms it offers (including the freedom for private subs, heavily-modded subs). There's a reason Metafilter is orders of magnitude less popular. I'm glad there's a place on the internet where people test the limits of acceptable and/or legal speech and online behavior, this is how society will ultimately figure out boundaries in the digital age. This involves an awful lot of ugliness right now, and there are a lot of innocent victims, but huge societal revolutions are always ugly and the advent of the internet is just such a huge revolution. I usually think of the transition to democracy in America. So much churn, oppression, violence, hate, nastiness, and still an on-going project 200+ years late. But I'd still take America's tradition of highly-free-speech over the alternatives any where else, and I'm similarly glad that Reddit is still committed to the ideal of a messy, ugly, free internet. One which is not immune to societal trends. However, I'm also glad to be able to spend more time in the refined parlor of MetaFilter than the vicious commons that is Reddit.
posted by amorphatist at 10:59 AM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Bring on the toxic reddit community!! Except that virtually every comment in the thread is positive.

You either have really low standards for "positive" or are indifferent to horrible gender politics when it's expressed in bro-joke form. I didn't have to scroll even a full screen down to find the massive pile-on of "joke" antifeminism, and one more before finding the first of what looks to be a large quantity of "joke" sexual harassment. I wouldn't bother pointing this out except that this kind of conditioned ideological blindness seems very much like par for the Reddit-user course, so maybe there's something to be learned from such a representative example.
posted by RogerB at 11:02 AM on March 11, 2015 [31 favorites]


Those of us who are the targets might prefer otherwise.

Anyone who's not white/male/het/etc is a target. That includes me. That includes oneironaut. I want to know what's out there, not just what I wish were out there.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:06 AM on March 11, 2015


Fetid worthless cesspool of negativity

Are you using some kind of 3rd level sarcasm? The first few comments immediately jump into fat puns and start making fun of the concept of triggers. After a bit they become more supportive and positive but because of the upvoting system its clear which comments the community values.
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:07 AM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm curious to see how much Reddit changes now that Yishan Wong is out. He really was an awful community manager in so many ways, sort of the opposite of Metafilter's humane leadership. One post-Yishan change that seems for the better is a new policy about revenge-style porn. There's a lot more that the site could do to improve, and I'm wondering if the new management will take that on. Although so much of the management is in flux.. Ellen Pao is officially "interim" CEO. The whole Reddit corporation is kind of confusing really, they've chosen a path of low-monetization.
posted by Nelson at 11:14 AM on March 11, 2015


Huh, yeah I was looking at the top level comments. I minimized the whole pun thread out of reflex I guess, without reading it. Going back I guess there is a bunch of shitty crap in there.
posted by Ansible at 11:15 AM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


This involves an awful lot of ugliness right now, and there are a lot of innocent victims, but huge societal revolutions are always ugly and the advent of the internet is just such a huge revolution.

Man, that's mighty kind of you to volunteer marginalized people to test the limits of legal speech.
posted by jess at 11:16 AM on March 11, 2015 [21 favorites]


(I mean the hardon-hadron pun is still pretty funny, just maybe its the wrong thread. As a fat white dude those kinds of comments make me feel like shit for a few minutes and trigger all kinds of old feelings. Can't imagine what its like for someone bombarded with sexism day in and day out.)
posted by kittensofthenight at 11:21 AM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


And no-one has a right not to be offended.

I detest this line, because almost always, the speaker ignores the correlary that the people who are offended have every right to voice that they are offended and why, and to push for change.

There's a reason Metafilter is orders of magnitude less popular.

Yes - The Management made the deliberate choice to select and limit the user base, for a number of reasons. I think that was the right call.

This involves an awful lot of ugliness right now, and there are a lot of innocent victims, but huge societal revolutions are always ugly and the advent of the internet is just such a huge revolution.

It's easy to talk of ugliness bloodlessly when you're not the collateral damage.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:24 AM on March 11, 2015 [22 favorites]


This involves an awful lot of ugliness right now, and there are a lot of innocent victims, but huge societal revolutions are always ugly and the advent of the internet is just such a huge revolution.

"truly the revolution is at hand," I think as a SWAT team kicks down my door because turd_bugs_98 thinks my comments about computer games are cultural marxism
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:41 AM on March 11, 2015 [34 favorites]


The whole Reddit corporation is kind of confusing really, they've chosen a path of low-monetization.

I find this amusing, in light of pursuing such a strategy in real life was the ostensible reason for Wong's ouster.

(I think that the move and the pushback was just a convenient excuse to can a leader whose star had become dimmed courtesy of a number of scandals on his watch. I think Pao is a lot more cognizant of how Reddit is perceived publicly, but at the same time, she's limited in what she can do as an interim caretaker.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:47 AM on March 11, 2015


I don't buy the growing pains argument because I think it focuses on what progress is being made (and there is genuine progress being made on many fronts) to the exclusion of the nature of the mechanism of progress. While it is undeniably true that free and open means of communication often inspires important discussions, and also that people can improve themselves as a result of them, it's equally impossible to deny that it also represents an ideal means of fucking with people. It minimizes personal risk while still providing plenty of means to inflict real harm. It turns the world into your personal open mic night that you can heckle until your voice goes hoarse. Let's be honest here, when in our collective human history have we invented an ideal means for fucking with people that hasn't been exploited non-stop since its inception? There have been people poking strangers since the stick was invented. What evidence is there that at some point in the future everyone will undergo epiphany and just decide to suddenly begin to participate in good faith?

This focus on the positives of unfettered communication to the exclusion of its flaws is like some kind of weird inverse perfect is the enemy of the good-ism. Call it "good is the enemy of the decent," or something.
posted by feloniousmonk at 12:08 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Anyone who's not white/male/het/etc is a target. That includes me. That includes oneironaut. I want to know what's out there, not just what I wish were out there.

No human being who is alive and uses the internet and ever says something controversial (like "I'm a woman.") is ignorant about what is out there. From time to time, every heavily moderated site I use, including this one, is visited by the worst of humanity who like to remind us all of what is out there. In my daily life, walking down the street, I am reminded of what is out there. On Facebook, daily, I am reminded of what is out there. And that is why I love spending my time in places where I don't have to deal with what's out there.
posted by hydropsyche at 12:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm glad there's a place on the internet where people test the limits of acceptable and/or legal speech and online behavior, this is how society will ultimately figure out boundaries in the digital age.

I'm glad that *the Internet* exists as a place where people test the limits of speech. I know Reddit likes to say that Reddit "is the [front page of the] Internet"- it's even in that Yishan comment - but turns out it's actually a business *on* the Internet that one may choose to patronize or not!
posted by atoxyl at 12:27 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?

For gaming and media, I usually go to rpg.net. I also go to Giant in the Playground, which is also heavily moderated, though not in a way I particularly care for. I also go to the G+ Fate rpg communities. For webcomics I go basically nowhere. For science and politics, I generally listen to NPR and some LJ feeds. For book reviews and snark I go to James Nicoll's LJ feed. For complaining about the latest shitty thing GamerGate or done sexist did, I'm offset of a very small, VERY private G+ community.

In none if these places am I forced to endure the notion that "free speech"involves forcing me to read someone's misogynistic or racist rants.
posted by happyroach at 12:38 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]



All these customize and filter and stick to subreddit comments remind me of the short skirt argument. Yes, the larger community is specifically and aggressively hostile and wretched to people like you but hey! We're not ALL like that. Don't take it personally. Come on in - quietly, via the back door. You'll have a blast and if a random MRA drops by or you don't feel safe or you do get assaulted, it's because YOU'RE not doing enough.
(And whatever you do, don't get mad. Just move along.)

For what it is worth: as a woman, I have never used Reddit. I have never even approached Reddit or tried to find a subcommunity I wanted to be part of or tried to have a conversation there. I do not have an account. I don't follow links to the site. Effectively, I spend most of my time pretending it doesn't exist, which is not so difficult....
The site has, at the very least, a massive PR problem. Massive....
They are driving away many, many people by hosting this shit. And they are attracting the sort of people who enjoy it.

(via sciatrix, because i can't figure out how to link within a page.)

A thousand times this.
I dropped by once - a subreddit came up as a hit on a search I was doing and I checked it out and I got the data I wanted and things were totally cool. It stood to reason - the odds of things being fine on a subreddit about Japanese makeup brushes are pretty high.
But you know what? It wasn’t really worth it. Why would I give me time and cash-generating presence to a community that is so kneejerkingly and viciously hostile to me as a human being? Call me thin-skinned or idealistic or tell me I'm missing out or that's its my responsibility to make the change i want to see - I couldn't care less.
The world's to big and life's too short to spend it where I'm not welcome. I'm gonna wear my skirt any damn way I want.
posted by tabubilgirl at 12:38 PM on March 11, 2015 [10 favorites]


In my daily life, walking down the street, I am reminded of what is out there.

Fortunately for me, I am not. I am only aware of what's out there for middle aged, lower-middle class white women who live in a very diverse and mostly progressive area. I have no idea what's out there for everyone else. I like to be reminded that my reality is not everyone's, for better and for worse.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:39 PM on March 11, 2015


It's too bad that the reddit interface uses a mysterious advanced technology that would be impossible to replicate elsewhere on the web with a different set of moderation and community standards. I'm furrowing my brow trying to imagine how a group of broadly like-minded people could possibly start a community forum devoted to video games or gardening elsewhere on the Internet, but I'm drawing a blank. It really is an insoluble dilemma.
posted by dgaicun at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh poor, poor cortex and his ten thousand users.

So Reddit is "too big to fail"? If people want to talk about say, cameras, someone can (and probably has) made a camera site with forums that are moderated and have better quality discussion about cameras. I'm not really sure the internet needs a super-clearinghouse-forum like Reddit, frankly.

Some people look at Reddit and see "awesome free speech zone" but I look at it and see "uncaring corporate monolith". Reddit is the man. Why support the man? They have a friggin' CEO; it isn't a community forum.
posted by freecellwizard at 12:46 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I like to be reminded that my reality is not everyone's, for better and for worse.

So do I. I find it works fine if I pay attention to the voices of people describing how things like sexism/racism/homophobia/transphobia/ableism/etc. affect them, instead of seeking out the people who are spewing the sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist/etc. messages. I don't need to dive into a sewer to realize that there's a lot of shit there if I listen to the people who've already been pushed into it or had it dumped on their heads.
posted by Lexica at 12:47 PM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


Different strokes for different folks. I like both. I am confident that this doesn't make me a white supremacist, despite the rhetoric in this thread.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:50 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


The point, I think, isn't that everyone who uses reddit is a Klansman. The point is that reddit as a system does nothing to combat society's ambient white supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, classism, and so on. Since reddit as a system also encourages self-reinforcing echo chambers through "community moderation," it encourages these bad tendencies to worsen.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:58 PM on March 11, 2015 [14 favorites]


Hmm, I only ever see racism in /r/darknetmarkets ("Black people deal drugs") and /r/conspiracy ("Jews run the world.") If I didn't subscribe to those subreddits, I don't think I would see any. I would have guessed that cryptic misogyny is much more pervasive on reddit as a whole. But I basically never see the regular front page of reddit so my view might be skewed.'

Read the comments in any of the larger subs and quite a few of the smaller ones and you'll find casual or overt racism or sexism. It's quite common, actually. This is an old problem: I've been reading reddit for 8 years and have been a member for 5 or 6, and have seen it the entire time I've been there. People posting vile jokes, attacking or harassing women or posting racist screeds. Reddit comments can be as bad if not far worse than the comment sections at newspapers or on YouTube.
posted by zarq at 1:04 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Heh. /r/metafilter.
posted by mullacc at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


But I'd still take America's tradition of highly-free-speech over the alternatives any where else, and I'm similarly glad that Reddit is still committed to the ideal of a messy, ugly, free internet.

Oh FFS. America doesn't have a monopoly on free speech. Reddit promotes and fosters hate speech. I've had a couple of accounts there in the past, and it's been highly educational--as ernielundquist pointed out above--to see how differently I was treated when I was out as gay, and when I never mentioned it.

Reddit is a fucking cesspool of garbage, and no nonsense about lofty ideals can or will change that. Tell ya what, when you are the target of the hatred and bile, when you have to live in fear of being doxxed, when you are made unwelcome for who you are, then and only then do you get to volunteer other people to suffer the growing pains of the 'ugliness' you speak of.

That 'ugliness' (such a nice, sanitized word) directly affects and threatens my life and those of many people commenting here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:15 PM on March 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Heh. /r/metafilter.

Yep, as put together by Rhaomi, who is a long-time user of both sites and can be found talking patiently about Metafilter when it comes up sometimes on Reddit. Here's the Metatalk announcement.
posted by cortex at 1:16 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and: MeTa (pls note the note from cortex at the top of the thread)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:21 PM on March 11, 2015


I keep trying to reconcile the view of Reddit as nothing but a "fucking" cesspool of racism and sexism from the Reddit that the White House has been effectively using to get its message out the past few years. Most notably in the Barack Obama IAmA, timed to the 2012 elections. Also Obama's hand-written thank you note to the Reddit community for its effective support of net neutrality.

I'm gay myself and to the extent it's come up, out on Reddit. I absolutely hate the casual sexism on display. (And the racism and homophobia, but there's less of that than sexism in my experience.) I totally understand if Reddit isn't for someone; there's a lot of crap to wade through. But Reddit is for me. Metafilter is more my home but Reddit is a place I visit daily. And it's apparently a place the Obama White House has found useful too, along with a lot of other interesting, respectable, useful people and organizations.
posted by Nelson at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I honestly have to wonder how many people defending reddit here even bothered to read the first linked article. There is some serious shit there that the site really needs to answer to - it's not just casual bog-standard newspaper-comment crappiness at issue here. And I say that as someone who's been using reddit for damn near a decade.
posted by dialetheia at 1:54 PM on March 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't see what POTUS' use of the Reddit platform to reach a large audience has to do with the site culture. Nobody's saying that Reddit is widely known to the masses for being *-ist, they're simply saying that it is *-ist, irrespective of what its reputation is. Obama using it doesn't matter one way or another.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2015 [8 favorites]


I honestly have to wonder how many people defending reddit here even bothered to read the first linked article.

Really? I think everyone defending reddit is *starting* from the position that it certainly has subreddits that are extremely racist and that they would never go to, the kind of subreddits described in the article.
posted by smackfu at 1:58 PM on March 11, 2015


I think everyone defending reddit is *starting* from the position that it certainly has subreddits that are extremely racist and that they would never go to

So then they're arguing that the presence of major hate groups isn't an issue for them since they have the privilege to just ignore those groups? If those hate groups are targeting you, just ignoring them gets a hell of a lot trickier.

My favorite analogy in this thread is the one about reddit being like a dive bar where the Klan meets in the back room. If you're capable of ignoring that the Klan is holding a meeting in the back room, great, but don't act like they aren't even there, or that all you have to do is not go into the back room if you're one of the people they target. To extend the analogy further, those guys come out of the back room to get drinks and play pool, so not only can you not completely avoid the people they attract, you're never sure if the person you're talking to is just taking a break from the backroom Klan meeting.

It really is a site problem on reddit, it leaks out into more innocuous subs, and I spend a lot less time there now than I did back when they started up as a result.
posted by dialetheia at 2:07 PM on March 11, 2015 [17 favorites]


Honestly curious, where do you go instead to discuss your interests? One-off forums?

The belief repeatedly stated here that discussion of topics somehow can't happen without Reddit is astonishingly parochial.

There's a whole wide world full of internet communities talking about stuff on all sorts of platforms outside of Reddit.

I've dipped into Reddit occasionally and I have never found a discussion that compelled me to revisit that group or even read more than 3 or 4 minutes.

I guess since Metafilter's demo overlaps Reddit's somewhat that it makes sense people think it's invaluable, but it's really really not.
posted by Squeak Attack at 2:14 PM on March 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


explosion: “Reddit's less of a site, and more of a platform. It's like saying that tumblr and the like are porn sites.”

This is a sneaky thing that Reddit admins lean hard on. But the thing is – there is no difference whatsoever between "site" and "platform" where content management and social responsibility is concerned.

When there's child porn, or racism, or hatespeech on Tumblr, Tumblr is called to account for it. Racist blogs are often deleted and banned. Sometimes they aren't; when they aren't, there is controversy, because Tumblr is responsible for the things that happen on Tumblr.

Reddit – the owners and admins of Reddit – is responsible for the things that happen on Reddit, too. But unlike Tumblr, etc, Reddit steadfastly refuses to take up that responsibility. It hides behind the "more of a platform than a site" lie in order to avoid the difficult but essential work of policing its forums in a socially and ethically responsible way.

I've spent a lot of time on Reddit, too. There are plenty of subreddits I really like. I don't think everyone on Reddit is evil – I doubt anybody here does. But I do think the core of Reddit – the owners and admins – have some extraordinarily confused ideas about how ethics and responsibility work, ideas that they ascribe to apparently because it saves them money because this way they can just ignore problematic shit.

And that makes Reddit worse for everybody.
posted by koeselitz at 2:25 PM on March 11, 2015 [25 favorites]


Legally responsible? Morally responsible? I agree that reddit refuses to apply a moral responsibility to the site.
posted by smackfu at 2:46 PM on March 11, 2015


This involves an awful lot of ugliness right now, and there are a lot of innocent victims, but huge societal revolutions are always ugly and the advent of the internet is just such a huge revolution.

What, exactly, is revolutionary about a methodology that encourages shitting on the same minority groups that have been shat on throughout history? What is new and novel about that, except that it is happening on the Internet and it allows people who are geographically separated to shit on those minority groups together?

Perhaps you have forgotten, but far more new and revolutionary is the idea that a group should not be shat on for being a minority, and that historic patterns of shitting were maybe not justified, and it is pretty cool to encourage the formation of spaces that allow these groups to participate in discussions and actively dissuades those whose main objective is to defend their "right" to continue patterns of harassment that extend hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of years back.

Seems to me Reddit's argument is that we should all uphold tradition for tradition's sake.
posted by schroedinger at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2015 [15 favorites]


smackfu: “Legally responsible? Morally responsible? I agree that reddit refuses to apply a moral responsibility to the site.”

Morally responsible. Legally responsible. A publisher is legally and morally responsible for the things it intentionally and expressly publishes, or allows to have published, on its platform. Are you disputing this?
posted by koeselitz at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Somebody has to see it. There was an fpp here last year about an AMA that was something like "I'm a woman in science, AMA" and from what I remember of the discussion here, people were like huh, there's way less sexist asshattery than I expected! And then it was noted that the mods of that AMA (and possibly the woman or women doing the AMA? I can't remember) do see the sexist asshatery, and it is their job to deal with it so the AMA is useful and interesting instead of full of sewage leaking everywhere.

Oh yea, this.

And yea, it's mostly about how they had to just read a constant tidal wave of shit comments. They didn't end up voted up in the end so if you view the thread it "looks fine!", but they still had to read so many of them. That's basically the barrier to entry of doing anything while being publicly a woman on reddit.
posted by emptythought at 3:01 PM on March 11, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm highly selective about what subreddits I peruse because of shit like this. Reddit isn't unified; it's host to a plethora of voices. (Quite honestly I just wish all the reasonable redditors would just switch to Metafilter. No one from here would have to ever to to reddit again, plus we'd get a lot of money).
posted by Beethoven's Sith at 3:10 PM on March 11, 2015


When I need relief from metafilter I go to reddit. When I need relief from reddit I go to metafilter.
posted by telstar at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a whole wide world full of internet communities talking about stuff on all sorts of platforms outside of Reddit.

What is worth acknowledging though because it sucks, is that a lot of smaller communities(especially ones about older niche nerdy things) have kind of dried up while there's still thriving discussion on reddit. There are things where my options, from what i know of active sites, are to post an AskMe or dig through reddit/make a post in a sub there. Other places haven't had more than a couple active posts/comments in the past year.

I know that there has to be plenty of things like this, where reddit just kind of wicked away the moisture.

A lot of things used to have their own site(s), but maintaining an entire website with a messageboard when people are only posting a handful of threads/replies a year just isn't sustainable unless someone is willing to be on the hook for it in perpetuity.

The one way that usenet analogy seems to work is that, well, all the users are there. Especially the weird obscure users buried in some odd corner. A lot of those kinds of people are here too, and pop out when you least expect it, but pages of previous discussion on a specific topic will be in a sub on reddit.

I don't really know how to solve this, or what to say about it. It's a critical mass thing, and isn't some made up handwavium.
posted by emptythought at 3:14 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Morally responsible. Legally responsible. A publisher is legally and morally responsible for the things it intentionally and expressly publishes, or allows to have published, on its platform. Are you disputing this?

Yes, but that's because I've read CDA 230 and the excretable Batzel ruling, which basically said that online, they're not legally responsible.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:16 PM on March 11, 2015


Reddit is probably destined to suck simply because of what it is. It's a massive, fast-moving forum with remarkably low barriers to entry. To grab attention on reddit, something has to be simple to understand and immediately relatable, as most users are going to give it about two seconds' consideration. And what fits those requirements? Stereotypes. Strawmen.

That's why memes are so popular and appealing, especially there. They are pictorial representations of a stereotype that you fill in with specific examples of stereotypical behavior. And the more recognizable they are to the userbase there (young white guys, primarily), the more views it will get. And those views influence the behaviors and attitudes of the userbase.

It's not a place that is conducive to conveying complicated or nuanced ideas, even if the userbase were generally open to those.

I don't know that the reddit model is even fixable.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:19 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


I guess I know about AskAHistorian from this thread but every time I've checked a niche subreddit (like, say, focused on a musical sub genre or looking for landlord advice) there's not really content. Just pictures from imgur, youtube links, and small talk. I've never seen anything like the the content on Mefi or Askmefi. Maybe I just don't get how its supposed to work.

I feel like its a poor content aggregator because of the volume. Talk about get your own blog...

Also, as a side note, I thought it was hilarious that the guy from Penny Arcade recently swore off commercial games journalism and decided to only use Reddit as his primary news source. Pretty funny.
posted by kittensofthenight at 3:21 PM on March 11, 2015


Reddit is probably destined to suck simply because of what it is. It's a massive, fast-moving forum with remarkably low barriers to entry.

The problem is that you could say all the same things about 4chan, hell, even moreso... and it's still not as bad.

I'd concede there's a certain amount of basal stupidity and badness that a site like that will generate just by how it works, but it's been demonstrated that even with a relatively hands off approach you can still be like, 7/10 on a bad meter instead of 10/10. Even with a giant number of users.

It's not destined to suck as much as it does, a lot of it is willful.
posted by emptythought at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


What is worth acknowledging though because it sucks, is that a lot of smaller communities(especially ones about older niche nerdy things) have kind of dried up while there's still thriving discussion on reddit.

I don't have to acknowledge that because I guess I'm not into older niche nerdy things? Although I don't even know what nerdy things those would be.

I kinda feel like doing an AskMe for people's super-valuable sub-reddits but I don't know if I'd get any value out of it because I'm not niche nerdy?

For knittting, I have Ravelry. For TV, I have a Facebook group with my old TWoP friends and Previously.tv. For art journals, I have individual blogs and Facebook groups. For dog rescue, I have Facebook groups with local people. For young hot actors, fannish stuff, modern art, decorative pieces from art history and occasional naked people, I have Tumblr. For podcasts, I have Previously.tv and here. For feminism and general linky stuff off the internet, I have here or The Toast. For fashion, I have blogs and Tumblr. For cute animals, I have the WHOLE internet.

Reddit hasn't killed any communities that I love (that I'm aware of.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:35 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reddit – the owners and admins of Reddit – is responsible for the things that happen on Reddit, too. But unlike Tumblr, etc, Reddit steadfastly refuses to take up that responsibility. It hides behind the "more of a platform than a site" lie in order to avoid the difficult but essential work of policing its forums in a socially and ethically responsible way.

Yes. Reddit, for ages, refused to ban subs that were dedicated to openly swapping child pornography. That is literally the lowest hanging fruit for intervention that I can think of. If they can't get their shit together enough to say, hey kiddie porn actually isn't okay on our site and we're going to systematically eradicate it and ban the people who post it - why the hell would they give a shit about racism or sexism or any other ugliness?

And I think that the unwillingness to take responsibility for this and address it head on has lead to a lot of the shit show currently playing on all screens in that particular multiplex. Because if your site culture is such that even what is usually used by most people as an example of the worst thing they can think of on the internet is tacitly condoned in the name of "free speech", then anything else that dehumanizes people is just gravy.
posted by supercrayon at 3:38 PM on March 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


The owners of reddit actively profit and provide refuge for child pornographers. It starts from the top.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:46 PM on March 11, 2015 [5 favorites]


he presence of gilded comments in a subreddit is a great way for us to see if users are truly creating value for other users in those same communities or if their existence is merely a pointless expense.

LOL! The value creating he is talking about is people posting child pornography and advocating genocide. The only "value" he cares about is the cash going into his pocket!
posted by Golden Eternity at 3:53 PM on March 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also Obama's hand-written thank you note to the Reddit community for its effective support of net neutrality

Oh boy! Reddit has "a black friend"! Everything's OK now!
posted by happyroach at 4:10 PM on March 11, 2015 [12 favorites]


I frequent r/hockey and yesterday was surprised to find a post about a recent incident involving junior hockey players committing a number of sexual assaults at a party. The top comments in the thread -- a sports-related sub on reddit, mind you -- were explicitly about rape culture and how it manifests among junior hockey players, and how fucked up and hostile attitudes in the locker room can be towards women. It looked like a metafilter thread.
posted by Hoopo at 4:10 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


r/hockey is one of the pioneers in this and a major outlier as far as reddit is concerned, see e.g.
posted by tigrrrlily at 4:41 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh boy! Reddit has "a black friend"!

The part I thought was interesting was Reddit having a "President friend".
posted by Nelson at 4:42 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


The only advantage I see of reddit is that you only need to signup once to communicate on a variety of niche discussions. I wish there was some service or standard that could mimic this without being attached to some terrible company, but it's really hard to have both pervasiveness and quality, it seems.

The combination of terrible paid moderation, low (re-)entry barrier, bias towards partitioning of topics and positions, user voting, threaded comments, and entrenched misinformed attitudes seems like the perfect way to fester self-reinforcing sewage. As for the bar analogy, remember that at any time, the x-ist group in the back will randomly descend upon your conversation and wreck it. And a lot of the nearby people can't seem to recognize that the wrecking is a bad thing, done by destructive people, and egg them on.
posted by halifix at 4:45 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a bit tangential, I guess, but it comes to mind after a few comments upthread about people visting reddit just for discussion about specific games.

I've never been a reddit user -- I think I signed up for an account shortly after it was launched, but it was tied to an email I account I've long since forgotten and abandoned, and have never bothered to get a new one or try to recover the old one, because I never found any utility in it, found it super ugly and impenetrable to read, and you know, was generally skeeved out for all the sorts of reasons people have been discussing.

As many know, I'm sure, I run MefightClub, where we have a few thousand Mefites and others all happily hanging out talking games and playing them together, and we've been doing it for 7 years now, and I built in in part specifically to be a gaming-related site that welcomed women and gay gamers and all kinds of folks who felt uncomfortable with the toxicity of gaming culture, long before the whole gamergate thing.

A bunch of us have been playing Elite:Dangerous lately, and I'm pretty deeply in love with the game. There's a long thread at MFC where we've been talking about it, but MFC is blocked at work by our stupid new filters, and reddit, hilariously, isn't. So I've ended up spending a lot of time -- orders of magnitude more in the last couple of months compared to the decade or so leading up to it -- reading the threads on the various Elite subreddits, and I've got to say that they've surprised me a lot, and reversed many of the conceptions I had about reddit in general. There's some shouty stupid stuff, much more than there ever is at MFC (which is none, basically), but a lot less than in most other gaming-site discussion, and wayyy less than there is on the actual Elite official forum.

So, yeah. I don't disagree with any of the condemnation of the nastiness of reddit that people have been talking about here, but I have been kind of happy to discover that my prejudices about the place were wrong, and that it's not, as some many other people here been saying, as universally awful (except, still, in terms of design, of course) as I had always thought.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:04 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


Freedom of Speech has nothing to do with the size of the audience. I'm not trying to pick on you, but I hear this implied or outright stated a lot in conversations like these. No one has the right to a large audience for their offensive opinions.

Wow ... I didn't expect so much passionate disagreement with my opinion but I agree with you that no one has the right to a large audience for their offensive opinions. And no one should also have any right to state their unpopular opinions to a large audience, moral or not. However, the fact is that reddit offers a platform for expressing those opinions. How do you deem what's acceptable and what's not? For example, what if we live in a society where abortion is morally reprehensible? Should a subreddit on promoting abortion be banned?

My point is that in order to create such a platform for the expression of all types of opinions (popular and unpopular), there will be morally and legally questionable sub-communities within the platform. And if reddit wants to play the role of being the "front page of the internet", it has to contain a diverse, representative segment of the internet.

I think reddit's philosophy is both idealistic and amoral (and not immoral), and whether it is a net positive or net negative contribution to humanity remains to be seen. Maybe the reddit experiment will fail. Or not. Who knows.

Personally, I find certain subreddits as disgusting as the next person and, as a minority, I have been verbally attacked before in the less moderated subreddits, but that's just the price to pay for having such a platform. I only use a tiny portion of the site (my niche subreddits) nowadays.
posted by wye naught at 5:08 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like that Metafilter is different from Reddit. I have accepted that it's okay for me to like Reddit and okay for others not to, and I try to downvote the fuck out of any racist/misogynist/otherassortedbullshit posts in the subs that I read. I don't see it all that often, but I accept that there are people that do and I'm sorry for that. But I don't feel bad for enjoying the subs that I do, and disagree that a site with many hundreds of thousands of unique visitors has one single overall culture. All I can do is be the change I want to see.
posted by the bird at the bottom of the tree at 5:10 PM on March 11, 2015


It's obvious that reddit needed to step up and hire some paid official content moderators around the time of the violentacrez scandal. For reddit to keep a hands off approach after that -- when /r/sreepshots turned into /r/candidfashionpolice , as a single example -- has shown that basically anyone can lower the bar any way they want. It's no surprise that gawker, themselves beneficiaries of the occasional teen celebrity creepshot has called them out. I don't think reddit's going to make it to 90,000 subreddits without having a large staff watching it's community moderators like a hawk.
posted by Catblack at 5:36 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd like to point out that whenever there's something good done on the site, which doesn't seem to happen much anymore, people are like "hooray reddit, we did it!" But as soon as one points out the bad, it's "reddit isn't a group of people." They can't figure out whether there is a site-wide culture or not, and it depends on if the site-wide culture endorsed something they perceive as good versus whether an "other" is criticizing their toxic atmosphere.

Maybe I'll start linking to comments on the defaults that are problematic, because I certainly saw a lot of them today.
posted by gucci mane at 6:03 PM on March 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


You can just search for any of the defaults on r/ShitRedditSays if you need examples of that kind of shit; I really don't think you need spend effort trying to convince any of the "I don't see it so it must not exist" types.
posted by NoraReed at 6:35 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really don't think you need spend effort

On the other hand, it doesn't take any effort to find them at all. I regret clicking.

Redidit: Come to gawk at the sexism, stay for the terrible interface.
posted by kittensofthenight at 6:39 PM on March 11, 2015


After long experience with Reddit and Livejournal on one hand and Something Awful and Metafilter on the other, I've come to the conclusion that linear comments are far, far superior to threaded.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:41 PM on March 11, 2015 [4 favorites]


Of Course, There Were Notable Exceptions

Brute power unfolding there
the cement of mendacity holding white society
together swiftly disintegrates
as happens with so many aspects of our work.

This sounds exotic and poetic now, some
34 years after it was chosen,
it is already empty and hollow
because at home there is a Trojan Horse
that has become aware of itself
and is now struggling to get on its feet
but we cannot play our double game for long.

Subsequently produced on the stage as well.
Most of the audience was annoyed
as were some of the participants
none of whom were informed beforehand.

There is nothing left over.
There are cops everywhere.
The Body is tropical, warm, hot: fire!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:20 PM on March 11, 2015 [2 favorites]


"to be honest, some freedom of speech makes me nervous" - Saul Williams
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 7:58 PM on March 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do you deem what's acceptable and what's not?

That's really, really simple.

Are you saying that some human beings are not equal to other human beings? Then what you are saying is unacceptable.

Seriously, this isn't difficult. Not all opinions and viewpoints are equally valid or equally deserving of airtime. Anything that says "those people are less equal than us people" is simply not worth giving any time or attention to. We've more or less established this concept. Your own constitution says so: "All men are created equal."

So... like seriously, as someone who's had more than a handful of hate speech thrown at him (and, over my life, it's still probably less than what the average woman deals with in any given 24 hour period), please stop with this ridiculous notion that all speech is worthy. Some of it isn't. End of story.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:35 PM on March 11, 2015 [9 favorites]


Article from slate that criticizes reddit's moderation system.
posted by polymodus at 2:03 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Reddit: can anyone clean up the mess behind 'the front page of the internet'? Guardian article looking at the general mess that Reddit is. Has specific data on how moderators of some of the "good" subreddits are also moderators of the "bad" subreddits. Also extensive quotes from several very active Redditors about the culture. It's quite a thoughtful piece. (via Sonny Jim on MeTa).
posted by Nelson at 7:36 AM on March 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


You would absolutely melt down under the pressures of moderating a top 100 subreddit with hundreds of thousands of users. If you grow large, eventually your userbase tends to reflect the demographics of the world at large.

I actually moderate a subreddit in the top 100, not a default, but still pretty large and with regular appearances on /r/all. My fellow mods and I maintain a pretty strict ratio of how many active mods to subscribers that we have; ensure that we have them around the world so we have constant coverage; have semi-regular meetings about subreddit policy; chat over IRC & modmail about edge cases; have setup automoderator to auto-ban offensive names and auto-notify us of certain key words; and have mod-only sub to discuss longterm planning and rule changes. Moderating a subreddit over a certain size is absolutely a part-time job for which I recieve no compensation other than the warm fuzzy feeling it gives me on occasion.

But many hands make light work, and we have more than 30 mods for our 300,000+ subscribers. Now let's see what the mod:subscriber ratio is in the top 5 most active subs:
  • /r/"funny" 8.0 million subscribers: 20 mods (400,000:1)
  • /r/adviceanimals, the sub that had to forcefully retire the "stormfront puffin" 4.2 million: 17 (247,000:1)
  • /r/pics 8.0 million: 21 (381,000:1)
  • /r/todayilearned (a prime source of "TIL non-whites are inferior" posts) 7.9 million: 21 (376,000:1)
  • /r/WTF 4.5 million: 10 (450,000)
  • Special mention to /r/videos which even at a 203,000:1 ratio manages to routinely earn it's reputation as routinely descending into racist/sexist/etcist shit.
Especially given that some of these moderators are also in charge of other large subreddits, these are not manageable numbers to actually do anything about groups like stormfront exploiting the userbase to spread propaganda. The laissez-faire attitude isn't just an ethos, it's a business model for reddit. To actually have any sort of effective moderation in the massive defaults, there would need to be massively more moderators (/r/AskScience has almost 400, a 12,000:1 ratio), which would start to push towards the idea of having actual staff. Since reddit is unwilling to do that, the default subs' moderation is basically just removing things which break reddit's very sparse rules. Thus, the loudest, angriest, most hateful voices are often the chorus in the comments.

From my own experience, it does not have to be like this. When the sub I moderate was getting started, we made it clear that the bigots in the crusty corners of reddit would not be tolerated. They were banned on sight and with as much fanfare as flushing the toilet. Now, aside from the occasional attempts at Holocaust denial (those fuckers are persistent), we largely go unmolested by the hardcore racists and sexists on reddit. I can be certain as to why, but my feeling is that getting consistently shot down and booted out made my little community a no-go zone for them; it wasn't worth it.

Of course, horrid stuff does still get posteed (and quickly removed), it's just that these comments come from the general reddit user base, which is filled with white suburban man-children who think their opinions are novel, interesting, and deserve to be heard, despite often being wrong on all three counts. It would not be so bad, but the culture of reddit (which redditors will vociferously deny exists) encourages this sort of entitled attitude. Reddit isn't just juvenile and mean, it's also quick to judge and pile-on, and I would not be the first to point out that it suffers from a massive case of second-option bias which allows users to feel smart without actually doing any critical thinking.

It's this last factor that makes reddit such a receptive target for astroturfing by stormfront and the like. I've written before that what the neo-nazis and white supremacists do with their propaganda is basically perform a racist magic trick. Start from a neutral ("just asking") position and then throw out a bunch of data without any explicit analysis (just a lot of implicit suggestion and playing on stereotypes). The conclusion either doesn't exist, the connotations and suggestions having already established the user's point without them actually having to say something overtly bigoted, or they present simplistic traps of false dilemmas. Either way, the point is never to actually engage the reader in critically examining something or to expand their thinking, but to lead them to a conclusion; that's propaganda. By presenting it as a factual, "logical" argument though, it makes the reader feel like they are being educated, and not led. Particularly since, again, a large portion of reddit's userbase doesn't actually have a lot of exposure to people who are non-white, it's easy to tailor the propaganda to be a form of confirmation bias, telling this suburban white kids that they're not racist, it's just that black people are "scientifically" terrible or some shit.

It's insidious, and it takes some vigorous debunking and/or moderating to purge from a system. Since reddit's admins have purposefully outsourced both of those things to moderators unwilling to take those steps, these sort of creeping recruitment campaigns are only going to continue until reddit gets surpassed by the next big thing.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:51 AM on March 12, 2015 [39 favorites]


With regards to Reddit's just-a-platform approach, I reminded of Sumana Harihareswara's quote about creating a community, "If we exclude no one explicitly, we are just excluding a lot of people implicitly. Including people like me."
posted by fings at 9:05 AM on March 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


I decided to give up Reddit recently. I subscribed to a handful of good subreddits, mainly around my hobbies, but I would often hit the front page just to see something funny.

This article, combined with the huge amount of racist, sexist, and just plain mean garbage that appears on the front page, made me decide to give up. I can find higher quality discussions of my interests on specialty sites and mailing lists anyway.

I don't want to belong to a community that has so enough hate to get these sort of posts to the front page.
posted by Fleeno at 9:39 AM on March 12, 2015


Shit, even on the makeup subreddit I go on there are periodic discussions where non-white women say "Hey, it sucks there aren't more WOC posting here" and white women say "WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS COMPLAINING GO TO THE BROWN PERSON MAKEUP SUBREDDIT UGH" or people bitching that trans* posts get upvoted too often.

I wonder what the nature of usage is for most Reddit users? Scrolling through the presentations of headlines and clicking out to links and never seeing any discussion is probably a sizable chunk, assuming it's not the majority. My light usage of reddit often totally ignores that comments even exist. If i look at them on /r/arduino/ it's because it was a post with a user question - links out to some new hardware or library I never click the comments view.

I imagine thats how so many people say "I never see X" without being willfully oblivious about things that don't target them.

Are there two Reddits in this way?
posted by phearlez at 9:42 AM on March 12, 2015


Thanks, Panjandrum - that's a really interesting look behind the curtain.
posted by rtha at 9:48 AM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would not be the first to point out that it suffers from a massive case of second-option bias

Off topic but Americans are so weird about socialism, what a bizarre thread that is. We have a guy pointing out a fallacy by basing his case on a straw man, in a thread engaging in the same fallacy on the opposite end of the argument. I think I better avoid that sub, it's giving me a headache.
posted by Hoopo at 10:03 AM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Really? All this for Reddit? Do we want to take a stand on Tumblr's numerous thinspo blogs next?
posted by bgal81 at 12:58 PM on March 12, 2015


After long experience with Reddit and Livejournal on one hand and Something Awful and Metafilter on the other, I've come to the conclusion that linear comments are far, far superior to threaded.

I don't think I've seen another non-threaded forum I like except here. There are special things about MeFi that make it work - for one the absence of paging and also the average comment quality is high enough that you might actually want to read them all for reasonable values of "all." I mean can you imagine reading Reddit non-threaded? MeFi still becomes a total mess starting around 200 comments on a topic though.

Sorry I know this is off topic but then we're at ~360 so far aren't we...?
posted by atoxyl at 1:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Panjandrum: “Since reddit's admins have purposefully outsourced both of those things to moderators unwilling to take those steps, these sort of creeping recruitment campaigns are only going to continue until reddit gets surpassed by the next big thing.”

This is another thing going on there that I think is connected to what Jacobin called "the Voluntariat" – the newly-ubiquitous reliance of corporate structures on workers who are paid little or not at all. As that article I linked there mentions, Coursera depends on unpaid translators to "crowd-source" translations; Uber depends on drivers to take micropayments in exchange for actual work that deserves salaried positions with benefits; AirBNB suggests to people that they ought to turn their homes and living spaces into little rentable hotels for relatively meager cash. There are whole industries rising now that depend on cutting costs by reducing labor expenses through marginalization and trivialization of those who do the work. And I think Reddit is a prime example of this.

The amount of money that's come into Reddit's coffers through the Conde Nast deal has made it clear that – if they wanted to – Reddit could absolutely hire a few hundred full-time moderators to manage the top subreddits. Paid, full-time moderators can generally do a lot more work than volunteers with day jobs; and the respect that their employers accord them by paying them often translates to respect from the userbase as powerful and helpful managers of the community. But Reddit saw that this would cost a bit of change, and so from day one they engineered the system on this model of unpaid labor.

I think that's a really problematic thing. I know it's unfortunately increasingly common; but it's also a mistake. Paying people what they're worth isn't just the ethical thing, it's the only way to manage a community in a realistic and scaleable way.
posted by koeselitz at 1:57 PM on March 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's also really shitty that they won't implement basic systems like the ability for sub moderators to block certain IP addresses and the like; it feels like they aren't just relying on volunteers to do their work for them but they also are treating them badly and wasting their time. They also won't let them solicit donations so they can get paid by their users to do the work that they do. They're just all-around shitty to the mods who they really depend on to make their site even halfway decent, especially on big subs like r/askhistorians.
posted by NoraReed at 2:01 PM on March 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seriously, this isn't difficult. Not all opinions and viewpoints are equally valid or equally deserving of airtime. Anything that says "those people are less equal than us people" is simply not worth giving any time or attention to. We've more or less established this concept. Your own constitution says so: "All men are created equal."

So... like seriously, as someone who's had more than a handful of hate speech thrown at him (and, over my life, it's still probably less than what the average woman deals with in any given 24 hour period), please stop with this ridiculous notion that all speech is worthy. Some of it isn't. End of story.


Just to be fair to myself, I want to make it clear here that I never claimed that all speech is worthy. I was merely discussing how reddit's philosophy and their "absolute free speech under the guise of anonymity" experiment would inevitably lead to the hate speech featured in the article and elsewhere on the site.
posted by wye naught at 2:03 PM on March 12, 2015


With regards to Reddit's just-a-platform approach

The thing is, Reddit's approach isn't "just a platform". They like to claim it is to excuse the badness but their approach is to allow whatever makes them the most money. They do exercise editorial control unlike Usenet which really was a platform. Why do you think they've suddenly changed their terms to say they'll remove explicit photographs posted without consent? It's not because they got religion, it's because they don't want to get their asses sued by Jennifer Lawrence or other celebrities with deep pockets. If people had stuck to posting revenge porn of their exes they'd never have budged.

You can't exercise editorial control for some things (doxxing, etc) but not others (creepshots, etc) and then claim to be "just a platform". Either you're a content-neutral carrier or you aren't.

Reddit isn't.
posted by Justinian at 1:19 AM on March 13, 2015 [10 favorites]


My pleasure, rtha, though I should say that they way my sub is run is notably and purposefully different from the majority of reddit. Outside the individual mod-only IRCs and subreddits setup just for modmail conversations, subs like /r/modtalk or /r/modclub might be the best look "behind the curtain." They're mostly posts about catching SEO and the occasional CSS tweak, though the former did have a conversation about this very issue (automoderator and vigilance were the proposed solutions).

On a different curtain pulling side note, reddit did just gift the mods of larger subs 3 months of reddit gold.
posted by Panjandrum at 10:57 AM on March 13, 2015


> Yes. Reddit, for ages, refused to ban subs that were dedicated to openly swapping child pornography.

Really? If you're referring to legal (yet obviously creepy) pictures, calling them "child pornography" is, to me, misleading in the extreme for people unfamiliar with the situation. If there was actual, illegal child pornography being openly traded, I'd think that the FBI would have raided reddit long ago and we wouldn't be having this conversation. Am I wrong about that?

The jailbait subreddit was gross and a black mark on the history of reddit, but it is orders of magnitude less gross than what comes to most people's minds when they consider "child porn".
posted by Turd Ferguson at 12:15 PM on March 13, 2015


Don't be disingenuous. Look up any history of that situation that isn't horribly biased. People were gleefully posting about pming each other nudes, asking for them, etc. they used some code words and stuff but the excitement and discussion of it was pretty fervent. It didn't last very long after that, but they obviously realized the mistake was talking about fight club, so to speak.

They weren't ever baldfaced posting them in public threads.
posted by emptythought at 12:22 PM on March 13, 2015


I'm being totally sincere; I didn't know that was the case. But I suppose that could potentially happen to any forum, and if it didn't last long once the admins became aware then I don't see how you can say "reddit, for ages, refused to ban subs dedicated to openly swapping child porn." It seems that, once they were openly swapping child porn, the sub was banned?
posted by Turd Ferguson at 2:13 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah I'm a bit confused on the child porn charge myself and don't think the question is disingenuous at all. There's definitely creepy stuff shared on subreddits, "look at this pretty teenage girl in her swimsuit" stuff. A couple of the Fappening images turned out to be of people who weren't quite 18. These are creepy and gross. (I think some Calvin Klein ads are creepy too.) But it's not quite the full Horseman of the Apocalypse thing usually implied by "child porn".

emptythought, you specifically said there's child porn being shared in private walled-off subreddits. Is there somewhere I can learn more about what you're referring to there? Has someone written about the PMing of nudes? I'm asking honestly, not trying to be fighty.
posted by Nelson at 2:25 PM on March 13, 2015


Here is a screenshot of a /r/jailbait post wherein the OP provided a non-nude picture a 14yo (NOTE: blurred out in the screenshot), was then repeatedly asked for nudes to be sent privately, and did actually provide an edited nude in-thread (maybe?).

Here is a /r/wtf post of that screenshot, wherein a mod of /r/jailbait states about this: "Child pornography most likely has been transmitted...."
posted by Panjandrum at 2:50 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's a Gawker article talking about both posts and PMs. Note that this is after the press had already put a spotlight on the issue and they were supposedly under increased scrutiny from the top-level mods, and it was still up for over six hours.

On preview: This is the incident Panjandrum is referring to.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:53 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Note that r/jailbait was closed in October 2011.
posted by smackfu at 3:13 PM on March 13, 2015


I'm not sure how that's relevant.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:00 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


as part of the eeeeevil SRS hate mob that kept yelling until they shut shit like it down, it does make me feel a bit old
posted by NoraReed at 4:24 PM on March 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Note that r/jailbait was closed in October 2011.

Note that the mandatory minimum federal sentence for receipt or distribution of child pornography is five years.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:40 PM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah yes, they reluctantly and sulkily shut it down in 2011, as prior to that it was not clear that it was a shitty thing to host.
posted by Artw at 4:52 PM on March 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


2012, even: MeFi thread
posted by Artw at 4:57 PM on March 13, 2015


The article from Slate problematizes the moderation system from a more abstract and general perspective than is argued by the Guardian article. The example I liked:

"Plenty of moderators work in industries related to the subreddits they moderate for free, whether it’s stocks, marketing, porn, or Web hosting. Their communities will call them out if they’re obviously shilling, but is community policing sufficient? If I were a moderator on r/philosophy and Arthur Schopenhauer quietly paid me to play up his philosophy and play down Hegel’s, and I was careful about it, would anyone notice? If I banned a couple vociferous Hegel fans while letting the Schopenhauer fans run wild, could people tell I was biased rather than just exercising good judgment?"

As remedies to what he believes is due to systemic opaqueness, the author proposes a) public record of moderation actions and b) the practice of explicit, Wikipedia-style discussion of establishing standards.
posted by polymodus at 5:00 PM on March 13, 2015


It's not really a terrible idea. Even for a site as transparently moderated as Mefi there is often a lot of accusations of systemic bias against mods. A little more public facing statistics on what exactly they are doing could reduce that. On the other hand, it can create false perceptions of bias when people do what they always do with stats and massage them to say what they want them to say. On a site like Reddit where there are often competing brigades it could just make things more murky and even worse.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:18 PM on March 13, 2015


Thank you so much for that reference; its an ugly incident and /r/jailbait has always been disgusting and reflects badly on Reddit, Inc. I'm glad Reddit banned it three years ago.

Is there more about PM image swapping than the one 2011 incident? And what about the allegation of child porn private subreddits?
posted by Nelson at 5:20 PM on March 13, 2015


Oh wait, another thread from late 2012. I guess cleaning up their act didn't stick.
posted by Artw at 6:20 PM on March 13, 2015


Amusing side note: the /r/jailbait controversy made it really awkward for awhile to mention or link to /r/jailbreak (for discussing iOS jailbreak tweaks and news).
posted by Rhaomi at 6:44 PM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think subreddit bans are effectively meaningless. I searched for "random nsfw subreddit" and found out that there is an /r/randsfw. Visit it a few times and you'll find that the same content is still there, the subreddits just have more oblique or marginally less offensive names now. It took me two tries to get something that was obviously just a bunch of stolen cameraphone pictures. Reddit has to start from a sincere desire to actually stop aggregating links to this kind of content before any of their actions will be meaningful. As others have said, this situation is the result of reddit's staffing decisions. They could have meaningful moderation but they choose not to. It's not like banning a subreddit forces the users who kept it going to leave.
posted by feloniousmonk at 6:58 PM on March 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


emptythought, you specifically said there's child porn being shared in private walled-off subreddits. Is there somewhere I can learn more about what you're referring to there? Has someone written about the PMing of nudes? I'm asking honestly, not trying to be fighty.

I don't know if there were ever any outside-of-reddit blog posts or anything about it, almost everything centered just on jailbait closing, and a few on candidfashionpolice(ugh). But right around that time, i remember there being some specific discussion of what subs were popping up whack-a-mole style in its place on SRS and subredditdrama and stuff. A few that got linked to, i think some even with screenshots, were blatantly just discussing that kind of stuff with lots of asks for PMs. Right after they got brought up, a lot of them either disappeared or went private.

If you think about it, how would it being _just_ pms and not having some central place to index content make sense? If there was that big of a community and following for that content there, it's not just going to evaporate. The few visible even then private subs had to be the tip of the iceberg.

As for how they work, how you gain access, etc i have no idea. But i'd be shocked if there isn't some kind of system in place especially when you see how complex bots have gotten for even stuff like /r/jailbreak. The way reddit works, they could rotate subs every week or even every few days.

The point is that the community was there, and it's technically possible with the way the platform works to make it extremely hard to track without either admin access or court order/being the FBI or something.

So yea, this is all rampant speculation on my part, but i've seen 6+ years of reddit, around 8-10 of 4chan before i tapped out, and a lot of other unfortunate awful garbage and communities. Watching how the entire 8chan and other *chan site thing played out when there was any effort to try and squish it... do you believe this stopped? This isn't some WTC tower 7 stuff, look at how those communities responded to pushback against invasions, child porn(and especially that), and gamergate getting kicked out of places.

If reddit is the central hub for the shittiest enclaves of the other two, is it hard to believe that it still would be for child porn? It was already there being openly asked for and advertised essentially, and i remember at the time a couple posts making it to SRS where some gross person in another sub mentioned stuff like "jailbaitgw"(see /gonewild, if you don't get that). It was obviously there, but in the same way that at certain bars that one guy is obviously selling coke, he just isn't holding a sign.

So yea, i don't have any links from the time or direct evidence, but i think there's quite a bit of circumstantial evidence. And the attitude and approach of the admins discussed in this thread does utterly nothing to back up the "nah" side, and if anything supports the "yea, it was and is happening" side.

And yea, no offense taken on the fighty thing. I realize this is just like my opinion, man. There were many others at the time who ardently believed this was the case and the admins were just looking the other way, and likely still believe that. It came up over and over around the time candidfashionpolice started on SRS, SRD, and other places.

Also what feloniousmonk said.
posted by emptythought at 4:22 AM on March 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Thanks for the explanation, emptythought, I understand where you're coming from now.
posted by Nelson at 7:07 AM on March 14, 2015


If reddit is the central hub for the shittiest enclaves of the other two, is it hard to believe that it still would be for child porn?

It's probably there in the hidden subs, but with how open about it all 8chan is it's probably more of a hub now. It's baffling to me they haven't been shut down yet, law enforcement seems to think playing whack a mole with the torrent sites is a better use of their time.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:47 PM on March 14, 2015


4chan's Overlord Christopher Poole Reveals Why He Walked Away. "The same week news of the Fappening broke, so did Gamergate."
posted by Nelson at 3:11 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Guardian looked at just how tight-knit the Reddit community was the week before the latest privacy policy came into effect, by taking data from the 500 most-subscribed subreddits and examining the links between them. While the list of subscribers isn’t public data (and frequently numbers in the millions), the list of moderators is. Any subreddit can have any number of moderators, and any moderator can moderate any number of subbedits.

As a result, it’s possible to use the networks of moderators to draw links between the subreddits. For instance, a moderator of Advice Animals (a default subreddit until May 2014, meaning that new users were automatically subscribed to it) and the StarWars subreddit also moderates the soft-porn subreddits gentlemanboners and rule34; a moderator of the default subreddits internetisbeautiful and tifu (today I fucked up, a forum for sharing stories of terrible mistakes) also moderates porn forum PerfectPussies and Gore, for sharing gory images.

posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on March 18, 2015 [6 favorites]


Reddit comments now embeddable on other sites

May god have mercy upon our souls.
posted by Artw at 1:01 PM on March 24, 2015 [6 favorites]




Heh. Clearly SRS is the toxic heart of Reddit.
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on March 24, 2015


It's some interesting data, but I find it hard to believe a methodology that rates r/Libertarian as having a negative score for bigotry. No offense to our resident Libertarians, but I think you know the issues there.

For a small number of communities (/r/Libertarian, /r/Jokes, /r/community, and /r/aww) the total aggregated score of comments that our annotators labeled as bigoted was actually negative – so despite having bigoted comments present in their communities, those bigoted comments were rejected by the community as a whole.

posted by Drinky Die at 3:32 PM on March 24, 2015


How did i know that the entire thing was just going to be a bunch of wordswordswords to support that preconceived conclusion?
posted by emptythought at 7:11 PM on March 24, 2015


But... Science!
posted by Artw at 7:32 PM on March 24, 2015


I didn't get the sense that he was going for a preconceived conclusion, but it did feel a little overconfident in his ability to measure "toxicity" in an objective fashion.

A comment like, "Keep up the good fight" would be tagged as supportive, and if exactly which people the good fight is against is understood so we don't need to say, it isn't going to be tagged as overt bigotry.

And calling it overt bigotry is kind of acknowledging it's going to miss more subtle bigotry.

And using the negative scores in this fashion, that means a community that produces a toxic or bigoted comment and then downvotes it is going to be ranked higher than a community that just didn't produce the comment in the first place. Is that the right call?

And "Idibon’s Sentiment Analysis model" was used to select which comments to evaluate, instead of a completely random sample. How much confidence do we have that this selection method doesn't introduce any relevant bias? This is the Idibon blog, they're mostly looking for demonstration of how people could use Idibon services. Maybe he was reluctant to decide, "Wait a minute, maybe I shouldn't use Idibon’s Sentiment Analysis model in this particular situation."

Meanwhile, a third of the comments are people arguing whether TumblrInAction is really anti-feminism, another third is people complaining their favourite/hated subreddit was ranked too high/low. The remainder is people questioning how you judge "toxicity."
posted by RobotHero at 10:38 AM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


On the toxicity scale the second most toxic is /r/sex which appears to be a fairly benign sex advice subreddit? Unless it's hiding some deeply awful attitudes quite well it doesn't seem all that toxic at all, though the subject matter may be tripping some dumb keyword analysis.
posted by Artw at 10:56 AM on March 25, 2015


Yeah don't log in and downvote stuff and participate or anything, because that would be supportive. Just make sure to never ever go to a place and just talk about it while sitting in another place. I'll never understand that attitude. It's a good thing civil rights activists don't think that way.

I've never wanted downvoting on MeFi so badly as I do right this minute.
posted by SassHat at 12:05 PM on March 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


« Older Graphic Journalism   |   Jeremy Clarkson suspended by the BBC. Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments