There isn't much I can say that most of you don't already know. We've been hard at work on a replacement infrastructure because the writing has been on the wall for many years. TRP and TRP-adjacent subreddits will not have a home for long on Reddit. https://TRP.red and https://Forums.red
Reddit's administrators are by far the most incompetent people I have ever witnessed. Their proclivity for censoring topics with which they disagree has been just one of many nails in the coffin that is Reddit.
Those familiar with chess know that counter-intuitive moves are not always for the purpose they appear. Sometimes a pawn is sacrificed for a greater, long-term gain or position. It would be naive to suggest that there wasn't method to some of their madness as they set about destroying community after community in a desperate effort to appease the ever-fickle advertising dollar. To suggest otherwise would unfairly discredit them when there are plenty of valid reasons to suspect their idiocy.
My critique of Reddit is far deeper than a superficial claim that they're just booger-eaters and hate free speech. I think if we treat the subject honestly, we can find a much deeper ideological problem: one that transcends the Silicon Valley giants and their ilk.
Deleting communities, issuing shadow bans, consolidating powers, and censoring topics are prima facie damaging to the community at large. There is little argument that these destructive policies, at the very least, damage the relationship with the members of the affected communities. But it’s not a stretch to suggest there is collateral damage, damaging the faith of all bystanders whose belief in Reddit's dedication to free-speech is already in short supply.
Surely, then, Reddit’s rationale for such actions is that they only cause minor, short-term damage in exchange for greater long-term gains. However, if this were true, one might think a company as dependent on the community as Reddit would treat major censorship events with a touch of nuance and at least an air of transparency and good faith?
On the contrary, in repeated events, this is not what has occurred. There are multiple failures of the Reddit administration I wish to highlight. I think the greatest of all, we will demonstrate, is their hubris in believing they've kept their true motivations somehow clandestine as they hobble together post-hoc rationalizations, inconsistent excuses, and poorly-conceived policy statements which now adorn the gravestone pages of the very communities that made Reddit successful in the first place.
Communication with Community Leaders
If you run your own moderately large forum on Reddit’s platform, you are likely no stranger to Reddit’s one-way communication style with community leaders. They like to submit drive-by messages to the moderation teams, often with a cryptic or misleading rebuke for the latest rule violation that the subreddit is responsible for. Often, this rule is not clearly understood or defined. This is by design.
The very notion that moderators are responsible for the actions of what community members post is asinine. Given the lack of tools afforded to moderators, it is impossible to know if members posting offending content are even members of the community at all, or if they are outsiders, posting content in an effort to defame a forum. Moderators are not given the ability to see membership status, identifiers that might link them to other sockpuppet accounts, or any signifiers of standing within a community.
Removing offending content is the only tool at a moderator’s disposal. It’s a hammer when all we have are screws. Until the moment a comment is removed, it remains for all to see.
Despite ample man-power and free time, it is virtually impossible to remove all offending posts. There can be hundreds of thousands of comments to sort through, we cannot always see every comment if they are not flagged by the community. But more deviously, the rules are not clearly defined, so even if we see the offending comment, rule-breaking material is subjective and we may not actually believe it to be rule-breaking.
An example of this comes from early in TRP’s days on Reddit, when “brigading” was the big bad no-no of the season. Communities posting cross-links from other communities were accused of brigading when the users following the links would participate in the conversation and voting in the target community. This was considered rule-breaking behavior and put a subreddit in jeopardy.
The problem is that Reddit, by design, is a collection of numerous communities on one site with a shared login. It is designed in such a way that visiting multiple communities and participating isn’t just a byproduct of the way the home page is laid out, it’s the main feature of the multi-topic website.
If users decide a topic interests them and they join in voting / discussion, this is encouraged as this is the basic design of Reddit.
This is where the impossible rules of Reddit began. Community leaders were expected to prevent users from participating across communities on a website designed for participating across communities with absolutely NO tools to do so. We were unable to prevent outsiders from participating because on Reddit, no user is an outsider. You can join and participate on any forum you wanted!
Moderators got together and voluntarily created and implemented a CSS hack to prevent users from participating if the link followed was a “No Participation” link (np.reddit.com). This was easily circumvented as the CSS design was optional and could be turned off, and it required other subreddits to comply by requiring their users to add the “np” prefix to all crosslinks. Incredible amounts of effort on everybody’s part because Reddit admin were wholly unable to implement any sort of feature to assist. And rightfully so, given that they had spent their entire development efforts in designing a website to do exactly the opposite!
Despite these voluntary measures, subreddits began being shuttered by Reddit admin because of “brigading,” despite there being no official rule against it, no tools to prevent it, and the persistence of free-will among the users. Mod teams were being held responsible for the actions of some users, and it was impossible to know if the users themselves were acting in bad faith as an attempt to shutter subreddits!
We contacted Reddit’s admin team for clarification on what constituted brigading, what actions we could or should be expected to take, and what would put us in good standing to prevent being shuttered.
A one sentence reply was given to our team “just follow the rules.”
At this point, it was quite clear that the Reddit admin had disdain for its communities and users. They did not want compliance, they wanted a rationalization for removal. Brigading was an excuse, not a reason. The only thing we could do was literally ban the word “Reddit” and the subreddit linking phrase, to prevent ALL Reddit links from appearing. This was the only way to prevent being shuttered by the admin for their ridiculous and unevenly applied rules.
The conflicting rules and poor communication plagues Reddit to this day, with more impossible standards and poorly defined rules being used against communities, even months after their last post (-r-the_donald).
The hallmark of the Reddit admin is that they contact a community after they’ve decided your users broke the rules too much, to inform you that they will be taking action to either replace the mod team (with ideological replacements) or completely shutter the community (and all similar communities that may pop up).
These excuses include comments that may have slipped through moderation. Reddit admin will comb through years of old posts to find offending comments that may only have 1 or 2 upvotes (or heck, even downvotes). They’ll use these missed items as evidence that the community as a whole is rule breaking and cannot be trusted on the platform. We’ve seen it in action time and time again. Comments or posts that don’t even reflect the attitude or demeanor of the subreddit, clearly made by outsiders (perhaps plants by Reddit themselves), and there goes the community.
For example: Reddit claims the_donald was removed for anti-cop sentiments. There are numerous examples of death threats against cops all across reddit today, including subreddits dedicated to it (r-Bad_Cop_No_Donut)
Reddit’s justification for shuttering, censoring, or quarantining subreddits is usually marred with logical inconsistencies and poorly conceived constructions on loose gravel. As they apply their rules like a spoiled child with a magnifying glass rules over his kingdom of ants, the rest of the community takes note.
Enough people notice these inconsistencies and understand, these aren’t rules, these aren’t rule breakers. These are ideologues giving half-justifications for their activism.
They tend to fall back on the same old crutches that Silicon Valley has been using for the past decade. It’s for advertising revenue. We want to be attractive to advertisers.
This is demonstrably false- as less than a year after TRP was “quarantined” we saw ads re-appear just as they were before. Advertisers, as it turns out, are not actually afraid of controversy. They just pretend to be in public to avoid backlash for terrible things.
See, Facebook itself is home to many awful things. Terrorists organize, insane people live broadcast torturing a Trump supporter, fake news is everywhere, and groups dedicated to every cause, controversial or not, all call FB a home.
Advertisers know they want to be where the eyeballs are. If NIKE advertises on FB it’s not because of the flat earth society. Likewise, when a brand gets on the home page of Reddit, it’s not an explicit endorsement of the gonewild community in which internet stars put sharpies in their butts. The latest Trolls movie is not explicitly endorsing a subreddit dedicated to cartoon girls with dicks. But such a sub does exist.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s not about controversial content- as there’s plenty of that on Reddit that doesn’t jive with Disney yet they still advertise there. It’s about ideological disagreement.
And Reddit is well aware, there’s no such thing as bad press. Every minor controversy that hits the news gets more exposure. There’s this awful subreddit dedicated to shocking stuff- it’s so bad! Don’t go there and look!
They come for the controversy, stay for the kitten pictures.
If Reddit’s goal was to maximize viewership, courting controversy but keeping an arm’s length from the content itself would be a recipe to become the #1 website in the world in no time.
Standing for free speech, Reddit could easily make the broad comment that they do not censor legal free speech, and that it’s a shame that such content exists, and “check out our puppies subreddit.”
Reddit’s actions betray them. Every time they take action, it is clear that they don’t believe the very words they say.
When Reddit quarantined TRP, they put a message on our page saying “This community is quarantined: It is dedicated to shocking or highly offensive content. For information on positive masculinity, please see the resources available at Stony Brook University’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities.” They included a link to Stony Brook.
They explicitly endorsed Stony Brook’s Masculinities whose executive director was Michael Kimmel at the time. One of Michael Kimmel’s crowning achievements attempting to debunk that men can be victims of domestic violence. He goes on to suggest that some evidence is simply false, that female-on-male violence is just different, and that it is men who lose control, women are provoked. From an interview with Cassie Jaye:
It is not true, […] that there's gender symmetry in domestic violence. That women hit men as much as men hit women.
An except from my rebuttal to Reddit’s Admin:
There is overwhelming proof that men are victims of domestic violence at least as much as women, if not more. Controlling for all violence, men surpass women as victims entirely, making the distinction of “domestic” misleading when men are by all means the target of the majority all violence and the victims of almost all murders No biggie, Michael Kimmel, it’s an easy oversight to make WHEN YOU HATE MEN.
Reddit tells us that Stony Brook should give us insight into positive masculinity, but Stony’s front page only has one reference to positive masculinity in the fight against domestic violence. And that’s for men to join as allies in preventing violence against women. That’s right men, FUCK YOU THAT YOU MAKE UP 78% OF MURDER VICTIMS, FUCK YOU THAT YOU MADE UP 59% OF VIOLENT CRIME VICTIMS, FUCK YOU THAT 93% OF WORKPLACE DEATHS ARE MEN Yes, that’s right. /u/spez thinks that little of you that he wants your masculinity to be defined not by fighting these truths, but by sacrificing yourself to prevent violence against women.
Needless to say, this was not a shining moment for Reddit’s ideological team. They made-up excuse they used as part of their censorship campaign was so poorly researched that it was obvious at first glace what Reddit was up to.
About a week later, Michael Kimmel was accused of sexual harrassment and stepped down from board of gender equality campaign group. Stony Brook themselves have distanced themselves and removed the group’s page from their site.
Despite our team asking privately and publicly for comment from Reddit’s team, their tacit endorsement of male abuse went unaddressed. We also asked repeatedly for comment on what the offending material on our subreddit was, but they never replied. They never gave us the tools to resolve the issues, they never told us what rule was broken or what we could do to fix it.
Instead, they saw the stunning public indictment of Kimmel, and quietly removed reference to Stony Brook from our quarantine message. They fucked up, and they realized it.
Reddit’s censorship was ideological in nature, not a fair and balanced application of rules, we see this misapplication of justice across many different subreddits and communities.
Reddit’s userbase is waking up to it. They notice the problems and inconsistencies. They notice the stark lack of transparency of the admin. They notice how poorly conceived the excuses are. It’s impossible to ignore.
Reddit can’t help but sound duplicitous in their rare communications on the announcements sub. Each announcement is followed by hundreds of comments asking why the inconsistencies in their policy exist. Most recently, reddit made another announcement, enabling hatespeech as long as it was against whites. We have to assume this was created by a child with no understanding of the world around him:
While the rule on hate protects such groups, it does not protect all groups or all forms of identity. For example, the rule does not protect groups of people who are in the majority or who promote such attacks of hate. –Now Edited Source
This language was quickly changed but is documented here.
Between the obvious excuses made to justify ideological censorship, the impossible rules for communities, the inconsistent application of said rules, and the lack of communication from Reddit’s admin, it is very, very clear that this is not ineptitude. This is bad faith by definition. This is an example of a group that absolutely hates their users and wishes they would leave.
Reddit is dying, and Reddit’s admin are killing it to serve an ideological master that is antithetical to free speech and incompatible with success.
My public challenge to prove I’m 100% right:
Reddit, you have an opportunity to publicly prove me wrong. First, apologize to our members for denying male victims. Second, publicly state exactly the terms of conditions we broke, with examples of offending material, and outline exactly what changes would need to be made to remove the quarantine.
Then, follow through and stay true to your word.
You have an opportunity to show good faith. Silence will mean I’m right.