Reddit’s Messy Fight Over COVID Misinformation
This week, Reddit banned r/NoNewNormal, a discussion forum on the site that called into question conventional wisdom about masking and vaccines, while also “quarantining“—or applying an opt-in requirement for viewing—54 other subreddits that violate the site’s “Rule 1” about inciting violence or promoting hate “based on identity or vulnerability.”
Reddit says it banned r/NoNewNormal for “brigading,” or the practice in which frequent users of one forum go into another to hijack the discussion. In this case, COVID denialists and policy skeptics (the two are not the same, though Reddit’s rules clarification post conflates the two) engaged in 80 brigades in a one-month span that were “largely directed at communities with more mainstream views on COVID or location-based communities that have been discussing COVID restrictions.” The subreddit had been previously warned that it was flouting the rules.
Interestingly, COVID skeptic and denialist forums are seemingly dominated by more positive internal feedback than the typical subreddit. According to Reddit’s analysis, not only has COVID content increased since the larger July emergence of the delta variant in America, but subreddits that call into question pandemic-era bromides and policy choices have a far greater percentage of “content positively received” and, therefore, exposure, than typical subs.
As one Reddit content moderator wrote when announcing the ban and quarantines, “An important part of our moderation structure is the community members themselves. How are users responding to COVID-related posts? How much visibility do they have? Is there a difference in the response in these high signal subs than the rest of Reddit?”
The moderator noted that “in these high signal subs, there is generally less of the critical feedback mechanism than we would expect to see in other non-denial based subreddits.”
But it’s also important to pair this defensible moderation decision with an understanding of the public protests that other Reddit communities have engaged in. Weeks ago, moderators of over 450 other subreddits submitted an open letter to the company asking it to “take action against the rampant Coronavirus misinformation” on the site:
“We could have been better off months ago, but disinformation and lies have been allowed to spread readily through inaction and malice, and have dragged this on at the cost of lives. There are those who deny that the pandemic even exists, there are those who think that wearing a mask will literally suffocate you,
Article from Latest – Reason.com