Reddit Defines Harassment and How to Report It

Recognizing that its reputation as a hotbed of trolls is a barrier to growth, Reddit is taking a more proactive approach.

As social sites grow, there’s a drive to clean up their image. Twitch clamped down on copyright infringement before its acquisition, and many sites like Tumblr and Reddit have been trying to cut down on adult content. Harassment is another big problem that sites try to tackle, and for the first time, Reddit is trying to make its site more welcoming by banishing trolls.

Reddit staff wrote in an official blog post:

We are unhappy with harassing behavior on Reddit; we have survey data that show our users are, too. So we’ve improved our practices to better curb harassment of individuals on reddit.

The change to the harassment policy was based on a survey of 15,000 Reddit users. Due to harassment, users were much less likely to suggest the site to friends, and many users didn’t comment because they feared negative responses from other Redditors. The primary reason users wouldn’t recommend the site was because they didn’t want to expose friends to “hate and offensive content.”

The new harassment policy is as clear as possible, and it defines harassment as:

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.

Users can report others by emailing Reddit staff, and they will then make investigate the matter and possibly ban the harassing user. It’s hard to say if this change will have any effect on Reddit. Indeed, the blog post notes that this change won’t impact the majority of users, likely because the troll problem on Reddit is smaller than it appears.

At one time or another, many subreddits have become hotbeds of trolls, and sometimes community moderators weren’t able to do anything about it. Large-scale events, like “The Fappening,” draw a lot of attention to Reddit, but Pew Research Center data indicated that fewer users reported harassment on Reddit than on other social networks.

However, Reddit staff believe they have identified a problem that is hampering the growth of the site. The change may be motivated by a desire to make Reddit a friendlier place, or by a continued drive make the site more attractive to advertisers. Hopefully the result is the same either way: less harassment, more open communication.

Readers: What have your experiences been like on Reddit?