Today, Reddit updated its policies about impersonation to no longer allow impersonation of an individual or entity in a misleading or deceptive manner. That means the new policies won’t just affect things like misleadingly altered videos (like deepfakes), but could implicate simple lies made by people impersonating others online. The new policies expand upon the platform’s 2018 ban on deepfake porn videos and were made just days after Facebook updated its own platform policies to ban deepfake videos.
Here are Reddit’s updated policies:
Do not impersonate an individual or entity in a misleading or deceptive manner.
Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity. While we permit satire and parody, we will always take into account the context of any particular content.
In the announcement post about the updated policies, a Reddit admin said that Reddit updated the rules to “hedge against things that we haven’t seen much of to date, but could see in the future.” (Reddit says impersonation was the second-lowest “class” of reported policy violation on Reddit in 2018, making up only 2.3 percent of reports.) The admin also cited malicious deepfakes of politicians as an example of content the platform is trying to prevent.
The updated policies seem to imply that any kind of misleading impersonation, deepfake or not, could trigger a removal or ban. That could mean, for example, that an account impersonating a US presidential candidate and making posts that falsely and misleadingly represent that candidate’s positions could be banned.
The new policies do allow impersonation that’s seen as satire and parody, however, which could be a hard line to enforce. Reddit seems to have given itself some flexibility to make judgment calls, though, because it will apparently “always take into account the context of any particular content” of satire or parody.
The new policies could also give Reddit a new method to shut down misinformation campaigns, which have appeared on the platform before. In 2018, Reddit said it had identified 944 “suspicious” accounts that were suspected to be linked to the Internet Research Agency. Some of the most popular posts from those accounts were negative articles about Hillary Clinton, linked to broader misinformation campaigns around the 2016 election.