Reddit Unveils Anti-Harassment Policy With A Purposely Vague Definition Of The Term
Reddit has what it calls a "hands-off policy" when it comes to user content. That's putting it lightly. Seriously, have you seen some of the darker parts? The site has given a platform to racist, misogynist, and all-the-other-awful-ists thought with little intervention for years, prompting one company to measure each subreddit's level of toxicity. But after listening to its users, Reddit is rolling out an anti-harassment policy.
Although a lot of the site is made up of cesspools of vile, hate-filled language — such as Red Pill, the Reddit community that provides "discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men" — there is also a lot of thoughtful conversation (really!). And that's exactly what Reddit higher-ups want to protect. On Thursday, the company announced the policy in a blog post, "Promote ideas, protect people." After surveying more than 15,000 redditors, the Reddit team found that many people felt uncomfortable participating for fear of being harassed.
After establishing themselves as soft-touch moderators, there will surely be some backlash to the change. But the team felt that allowing the toxic environments to flourish with no interference was hurting, not helping, free exchange of ideas. The company wrote:
This change will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99% of our users. It is specifically designed to prevent attacks against people, not ideas. It is our challenge to balance free expression of ideas with privacy and safety as we seek to maintain and improve the quality and range of discourse on reddit.
The post wasn't crystal clear about what the consequences would be for users who are harassing other redditors, who can be reported through email. And, really, it defined harassment in pretty vague terms.
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.
But maybe not having an air-tight definition is a positive thing. Technology and different modes of harassment are constantly changing. Who would have thought that something like GamerGate, which posed real-life danger to women, could have been birthed from places such as Reddit and 4chan? Reddit's Executive Chairman Alexis Ohanian noted to The New York Times that things like revenge porn didn't exist when the site was launched. Reddit is taking positive steps to combat these evolving abuses, and by having a loose policy it can head new ones off at the pass. Whew! Now we can all enjoy our AMAs in peace.
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