After Gawker exposed Violentacrez, one of Reddit's most controversial members, the website's moderators scrambled to censor the publication's content across Reddit. In the days since, some of Reddit's communities have struggled to balance free speech with anonymity — with some users getting caught in the crossfire. Reddit's admins have since spoken up, clarifying the company's position on free speech, and drawing clearer policies on restrictions of personal information on the site.
Oct 18, 2012
Michael Brutsch — the man behind the controversial Reddit handle Violentacrez — has spoken to CNN, offering up an apology and an explanation for his actions on the site. Brutsch, whose public identity was outed by Gawker last week, said in an interview that he made a "huge mistake" in creating subreddits that served as places to share everything from rape jokes to pictures of pregnant women. "Well, I am to some degree apologizing for what I did. Again, I was playing to an audience of college kids," he said. "The audience was appreciative and supportive of the kind of gallows humor that I put out there."Read Article >
The disclosure of Violentacrez's true identity led to a firestorm of controversy, with Reddit temporarily instituting a ban on Gawker links. The move was later reversed, with Reddit CEO Yishan Wong writing in a recent letter that "We stand for freedom of speech," and that while unmasking users may not be acceptable on Reddit itself, it was't going to ban media sources for having done so. Reddit took even further steps to distance itself from Brutsch when communicating with CNN, writing in an email that it "regret(s) not taking stronger action sooner" against his behavior.
Oct 17, 2012
Reddit CEO addresses Violentacrez controversy: 'we will not ban legitimate investigative journalism'
Reddit doesn't really dictate how its corner of the internet is run, but CEO Yishan Wong has some strong suggestions for dealing with recent events: "We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it," he writes, in a leaked memo posted today and obtained by Gawker. He's referring to the ongoing Violentacrez controversy, of course. Last week, that very same Gawker unmasked one of Reddit's most unsavory trolls, posting his real identity for all to see. Allegedly, it cost Violentacrez his job. At the same time, Gawker sister site Jezbel ran a story which suggested that naming names was the only way to combat distasteful content like r/CreepShots, a place where "technically legal" upskirt photos were posted.Read Article >
For Reddit, the stories were serious offenses: the site does not permit posting the personal information of its users (aka "doxxing"). However, Reddit's moderators took the rules a step further, attempting a site-wide ban against the Gawker network, and banning a user and even one fellow moderator who spoke out against such practices.
Oct 16, 2012
Thanks to its 40 million loosely moderated users, Reddit has achieved massive growth with a minimum of regulation. Its hands-off approach is strongly libertarian, giving users a platform to say almost anything while treating anonymity as sacrosanct. But after the publication of a Gawker article outing Violentacrez, one of Reddit’s most controversial users, moderators and admins are increasingly having to decide where to draw the line when the two conflict — and how to deal with criticism of their policies.Read Article >
At its most concrete, this conflict manifests in discussions about whether (and how) to ban either links to recent pieces on Gawker and Jezebel or the entire Gawker blog family. But it’s also present in the fabric of the site’s administration. Late last week, a moderator named Solidwhetstone posted a discussion from the #modtalk IRC channel on Pastebin, revealing widespread uncertainty about their policies. Shortly after releasing the information, he says he was banned from the ModTalk subreddit and IRC room.
Oct 15, 2012
Without a hint of irony, one or more of the moderators for r/technology, one of Reddit's largest communities, banned a user for submitting a report on the site's moderation problems last night. The submitter of the article, user CivAndTrees, told us they were banned from r/technology without warning or explanation. The action follows several efforts by Reddit's most prominent and secretive moderators to control the spread of information about leaked user Violentacrez, who was responsible for the creation of controversial subreddits containing hateful speech and sexual content involving minors.Read Article >
"I received nothing but a banned notice. No message. No reasoning," CivAndTrees wrote in a private message to The Verge. "The message was not even sent from a moderator, it was sent from r/technology." CivAndTrees said that the site is being "infested" by overreaching moderators. "It's really sad. But being banned from r/technology like that for a simple post really disturbs me. Reddit is getting bigger and bigger, and it seems some people are trying to control what is seen and not seen on this website," CivAndTrees wrote. In addition to banning the user, moderators unlisted the submission — effectively censoring the article and the conversation about it from readers both in r/technology and the front page audience of Reddit.com.
Oct 14, 2012
Reddit prides itself on its decentralized meritocracy —"subreddits are a free market. Anyone can create a subreddit and decide how it's run," it says. So far this model has been very successful in launching sites: there are tens of thousands of subreddits on any imaginable topic, with an endless supply of new forums open for the taking, all which rise and fall based on the desires of the community. Reddit generally polices just five basic rules, one of which is "don't post personal information." Other rules include no spam, no cheating the system, and no child pornography — a rule that expanded just seven months ago to include "no suggestive or sexual content featuring minors" after a subreddit completely based on that kind of content gained national infamy from mainstream voices like CNN's Anderson Cooper. And while the expectation of anonymity is a powerful part of Reddit's ideology, as the community's most powerful moderators learned this week, that protection doesn't extend to the world outside of the site's control.Read Article >
Reddit's most controversial community members, creators and contributors to predatory communities like r/jailbait and r/creepshots, have long enjoyed the site's official system-wide shield of anonymity. But earlier this week when Gawker's Adrian Chen threatened to unmask the infamous Violentacrez, one of Reddit's most unsavory subreddit owners, several of Reddit's most powerful moderators began to systematically censor and ban all of Gawker's content. (Indeed, it was a bad week for anonymity on Reddit, and Jezebel's call to unmask the posters of r/creepshots was met with similar ire). Reddit's reactive censorship, spearheaded by the leaders of massive million-member subreddits like r/politics, attacked Chen for "threatening to publish" the real-life identity of one of its most controversial users. In the days since, Reddit's moderators have scrambled to control the damage of Violentacrez's leaked identity.