All hell broke loose on Reddit this week, the social media site where users can post and comment on just about anything. Content is organized into subreddits that are curated by moderators around a specific topic, i.e r/newjersey is user submitted New Jersey news, r/pics is for pictures submitted by Redditors. After content is posted, other users can upvote or downvote the post, which results in the “best” content rising to the top of each subreddit.
The controversy this week revolved around a well-publicized policy change by Reddit – that they are cracking down on abusive users. From Reddit’s blog last month:
“Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.”
What Reddit did this week was delete 5 entire subreddit communities, including r/fatpeoplehate and r/hamplanethatred, two communities populated by people who hate on overweight folks. Of course banning such vile communities on principle alone based on the content might seem like a good idea but that is not what happened. The subreddits were banned because the moderators failed or chose not to crack down on abusive users – users who were abusing individuals on and off Reddit. The virtual riot that ensued was led by a very vocal minority of users that oppose any type of censorship on Reddit, and many of them even decided to decamp to another social site called Voat, which reportedly has even less censorship.
Reddit, with 170 million monthly users and 7 billion page views last month, is here to stay despite its sometime horrific content. Here’s what parents need to know:
If you have a teenage boy, he could be a Reddit user – The largest demographic on Reddit is young males. I have 2 teenage boys at home who are Reddit users, as are their friends from what I hear.
The bad content on Reddit will continue – Reddit is reacting to users who attack individuals, but vile content is not outlawed. For example, the extremely racist subreddit r/coontown has been unaffected, but we presume that if a user there attacked a specific individual, the individual reported the abuse and the moderators took no action, then the subreddit could be at risk.
There is lots of bad content online – We probably don’t have to tell you this, but every variety of despicable content is available online. Reddit is not the only problem – far from it.
There is lots of great content on Reddit – From communities revolving around video games, sports and yes, pictures of cats to wildly popular AMAs (Ask Me Anything) sessions with famous folks President Obama and Bill Gates, if your teen likes to dive deep into specific topics, a Reddit community probably has what he is looking for.
Once your teen has unsupervised internet access, it is virtually impossible to tell him which sites he can visit and know that he will comply. What you can do is talk to him, frequently, about what types of content are age appropriate, and what types of interactions are positive. Reddit has a problem, but Reddit isn’t the problem.
By the way, the vocal minority of haters on Reddit is just that – a petition at Change.org to have CEO Ellen Pao ousted over this new policy has fewer than 10,000 signatures.
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