Reddit works to clean up its "dark corners"
COLUMBIA -Racism, sexism, homophobia and animal abuse have all had a home on Reddit, but the website is taking steps to change that.
Reddit is a hybrid social media network and news aggregator. The site is divided up into hundreds of thousands of small communities known as "subreddits".
Each subreddit is dedicated to a specific topic or interest. There are subreddits for local and national news, restaurant recommendations, sports or political debates, and seemingly endless jokes and funny pictures.
Dusty Bacon, an MU student, has been on the site for six years. He says he's seen the good parts of Reddit, but also much of the bad ones.
"There are a wide array of dark corners and there has really been a long legacy of controversy based on those dark corners," Bacon said.
Bacon said the disturbing content is "very easy to find."
Recently, Reddit announced plans to clean up some of those areas. The website removed several subreddits, including r/nationalsocialism, r/nazi, and r/farright.
Reddit released a statement saying, in part:
"Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; Likewise we will also take action against any content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals.
We understand that enforcing this policy may often require subjective judgment, so all of the usual caveats apply to content that is newsworthy, artistic, education, satirical, etc. as mentioned in the policy. Context is key."
Victoria Johnson studies media and collective behavior at MU. She says Reddit's shared-interest communities, along with user anonymity, creates an outlet for those who wish to spread hate.
"It's almost like crowd behavior," Johnson said. "If you're in a large crowd and you feel like you're anonymous and you feel like others are doing the same thing, you're more likely to engage in behavior you wouldn't normally do."
Both Bacon and Johnson said the challenge for Reddit will be balancing its users' right to free speech while preventing hateful speech and violence.
"It's important to recognize that freedom and freedom of speech involves not only letting someone say anything they want that is hateful, but for people to engage in that conversation without being terrorized. That is freedom as well," Johnson said.
While Bacon said he appreciates a user's right to express their own opinion, he's glad Reddit is taking steps to make the site a safer place.
"I totally accept that to appeal to more people, they have to regulate their blemishes and those are blemishes," he said. "I respect them for doing it, even if it means they lose some users."
Bacon said he hopes the ugly parts of the site don't overshadow the good.
"Reddit is all about stories and connections. My favorite memories on Reddit throughout all the years have been people sharing stories of things that mean a lot of them, things like that. There's a lot of good on Reddit."