Tags: Feminism • First Amendment Solutions • Letter Writing Sunday
If you use Reddit, you might have seen me around “Shit Reddit Says” and the related subreddits, which we sometimes call “The Fempire.” SRS is a community of people dedicated to social justice, and the main way we do this is by calling out racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist, transphobic, classist, and otherwise generally shitty upvoted content on Reddit. The main subreddit is a place to both call attention to these comments and for people to mock them. SRS has its own sense of humor with lots of hyperbole and inside jokes about dildos and Lady Gaga, but it’s easy to catch on. Serious discussion takes place in the other forums.
In the past, presumably in response the users of SRS and others (notably Anderson Cooper) Reddit has shut down /r/jailbait, a subreddit where people traded sexually suggestive pictures of teenage girls, and has articulated a “necessary change in policy” which states:
At reddit we care deeply about not imposing ours or anyone elses’ opinions on how people use the reddit platform. We are adamant about not limiting the ability to use the reddit platform even when we do not ourselves agree with or condone a specific use. We have very few rules here on reddit; no spamming, no cheating, no personal info, nothing illegal, and no interfering the site’s functions. Today we are adding another rule: No suggestive or sexual content featuring minors.
In the past, we have always dealt with content that might be child pornography along strict legal lines. We follow legal guidelines and reporting procedures outlined by NCMEC. We have taken all reports of illegal content seriously, and when warranted we made reports directly to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who works directly with the FBI. When a situation is reported to us where a child might be abused or in danger, we make that report. Beyond these clear cut cases, there is a huge area of legally grey content, and our previous policy to deal with it on a case by case basis has become unsustainable. We have changed our policy because interpreting the vague and debated legal guidelines on a case by case basis has become a massive distraction and risks reddit being pulled in to legal quagmire.
As of today, we have banned all subreddits that focus on sexualization of children. Our goal is to be fair and consistent, so if you find a subreddit we may have missed, please message the admins. If you find specific content that meets this definition please message the moderators of the subreddit, and the admins.
We understand that this might make some of you worried about the slippery slope from banning one specific type of content to banning other types of content. We’re concerned about that too, and do not make this policy change lightly or without careful deliberation. We will tirelessly defend the right to freely share information on reddit in any way we can, even if it is offensive or discusses something that may be illegal. However, child pornography is a toxic and unique case for Internet communities, and we’re protecting reddit’s ability to operate by removing this threat. We remain committed to protecting reddit as an open platform.
However, much of this content still remains. There’s /r/creepshots, a forum where men post pictures focusing on women’s private areas that were taken in public, without the woman knowing. Some of these women appear to be underage. In addition, subreddits like /r/beatingwomen and /r/rapingwomen celebrate violence against women.
Project Panda: Reddit Bomb is an attempt to bring attention to the fact that these subreddits exist, and encourage Reddit to enforce its own policy.
Just as in Adam’s discussion of Big Think’s decision to hire Satoshi Kanazawa, it’s possible to support someone’s right to free speech without wanting to hand them a megaphone. I use Reddit, and I love it. I promote my blog there, I have met some great people, learned a ton about beer and even my hometown. But I feel uneasy being part of a community, no matter how big and varied that tolerates entire forums with hundreds of subscribers that encourage rape and brutal violence.
I decided to email companies that advertise on Reddit about my concerns. It’s a market based solution, and one was highly effective in getting Glenn Beck off of the airwaves without restricting anyone’s First Amendment Rights. So far, two of them have responded. Additionally, outrage over /r/creepshots has generated a ton of media coverage, including Jezebel, the Guardian, and the New York Daily News.
Reddit has made no official response yet, but already some of the subreddits in the initial press release have been taken down.
I have been made a moderator at /r/RedditBomb, the subreddit organizing this project. I’m excited to see what will happen next.