Reddit has been making big policy changes lately in attempts to combat one of the most notorious and seemingly insurmountable issues of the Internet: trolls.
Not this kind. Reddit loves /r/dannydevito
Yeah, this kind.
Last Wednesday, Reddit launched a new ‘blocking’ feature that enables users to block any other user’s posts from being visible to their account without that person’s knowledge (similar to a ‘mute’ feature).
The blocking function is the newest of a few recent policy changes from Reddit that are aimed at slowing the persistence of some of the more vicious trolls currently dwelling in the dark corners of Reddit, which could help enable Reddit to achieve its current goal of growing into a more inclusive & friendly household name like other top social media platforms such as Facebook & Twitter.
For anyone who is lucky enough not to have encountered a ‘troll’ before, trolls are individuals who post online about ideas, topics or pieces of content that is either unabashedly distasteful or meant to anger, torment, embarrass or tease another (usually innocent/ignorant or genuine) individual on the Internet, then persistently post said content or related hate speech until others are noticeably upset. Trolls may move on to another target at that point, or may make it their life goal to forever torment one person (see: GamerGate). And repeat.
Since its launch in 2005, Reddit has been a sort of breeding ground for people like these to unify and grow in strength and numbers. The pseudo-anonymity and limitless conversation capacity that Reddit provides, combined with a mostly hands-off moderator policy, was a perfect place for less savory or taboo topics to find a home (anywhere from /r/SantaPorn to /r/Cannibalism — but these are generally quarantined) and for like-minded trolls to band together, “spread like a virus” to other parts of the Internet, and create more distasteful or hurtful content.
The forum was originally designed sans-censorship as a way to be a welcoming space for all to express themselves freely no matter what topic, but as Internet bullying and trolling has become a more serious issue that (at minimum) is unpleasant for a majority of users, the founders of Reddit have begun to assume a more active role in policing the most vicious users. Earlier policy changes from 2015 included new content rules disavowing harassment and all other content that “violates a common sense of decency”.
All of this being said, my questions for the class are:
- Do you think Reddit can subdue the trolls (in other words, do you think policy changes and mute buttons will be enough to make a significant positive change to their signature “everything-goes” online culture)?
- Is there a possibility that policy changes will cause Reddit to become less popular, or that this may only make trolling more challenging (and maybe even more satisfying when they succeed)?
- Does Reddit have what it takes to become a mainstream social media website (in terms of ease of use, advertisement capabilities, etc)?