What began as a forum page for anyone on the Internet has become an online dystopia where people (mainly anonymous folk hiding behind kitschy avatars and user names) can drop all filters without fear of retaliation.
This is Reddit.
Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have their scruples but still allow the average social misanthrope some levity. Reddit, on the other hand, needs to purge a few demons–and that moment arrived yesterday when Reddit announced site-wide policies to explicitly prohibit harassment.
A corporate blog post, entitled “Promote ideas, protect people,” created quite the hubbub because this is the first such line in the sand for Reddit. Admittedly (per Reddit itself), the manifesto is TL;DR. But its first line could easily be its last line:
We are unhappy with harassing behavior on reddit.
If you spend any time on Reddit, you will unreservedly agree with that statement. In fact, the blog post discusses a study of more than 15,000 current Redditors, who said the top reason they don’t recommend the forum site to others is “because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content.”
That sound you hear is a cacophonous “DUH” reverberating from sea to shining sea.
“We’ve heard a lot of complaints and found that even our existing users were unhappy with the content on the site,” said Ellen Pao, chief executive of Reddit. “We don’t think this behavior represents what Reddit is.”
Some users have complained that this move will be used to stifle debate or disagreement, something Reddit has positioned itself explicitly against. “This change will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99 percent of our users,” reads the post.”It is specifically designed to prevent attacks against people, not ideas.”
Good luck with all that. Much could be said for collecting some good PR mojo from this move as well.
A national awareness of cyberbullying and trolling happened near the turn of this decade, so late to the party is an understatement. Sure, the headlines are everywhere but the rush to pin a medal on the collective lapel of Reddit isn’t happening.
The last social media platform to figure out how to limit the cowardice of anonymity and the cost of “free speech” will be the first, but Reddit is known for being one of the chief offenders online.
The adage goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” From the harassment/troll/anonymity standpoint, social media is broken.
And hopefully, a leader in the social universe will fix it. That’s when the PR love will come rolling.