Reddit has banned anti-vaccine and anti-mask subreddit r/NoNewNormal and has quarantined 54 other subreddits associated with COVID denial. A week ago, the company’s CEO said in a post that Reddit was meant to be a place of “open and authentic discussion and debate,” even for ideas that “question or disagree with popular consensus.” In today’s post, the company has clarified its rules with regard to health misinformation.
The subreddit NoNewNormal has been cited by many in the Reddit community as a source of vaccine misinformation, and it was known for “brigading” other subreddit’s discussions by butting in on conversations about COVID or related policies in other communities. NoNewNormal was the source of 80 such brigades in the past month, according to Reddit security, and the behavior continued after the community was warned, leading to its ban. The community had previously been quarantined. For the 54 other subreddits that have been quarantined, Reddit warns potential visitors that medical advice should come from doctors rather than forum members.
Reddit, along with other social networks and online marketplaces, has struggled with misinformation about COVID treatments in recent weeks. The platform has rules that seek to address the concerns but admits how it was interpreting and enforcing those rules hasn’t been clear. In today’s announcement, it stated that it classifies health misinformation as “falsifiable health information that encourages or poses a significant risk of physical harm to the reader.” It also says that health disinformation means “falsifiable health information that has been manipulated and presented to mislead” and gives the example of posting fake advice attributed to health officials.
In its post, Reddit cites users’ frustration with the platform’s “handling of COVID denial content.” Recently, a large number of Reddit’s most popular subs have been going private, hiding their posts from people who aren’t subscribed to them, to protest the company’s inaction. The action was partially spurred by the spread of misinformation around ivermectin — a drug whose veterinary form meant for livestock has been recommended as a cure for COVID, despite the Food and Drug Administration’s warnings that using medicine for animals can be dangerous.
Even before Reddit’s announcement today, some users were trying to take the situation into their own hands — /r/Ivermectin has been spammed with shitposts, calls for trans rights, and furry porn involving horses. (The link is a reasonably SFW explanation.) The latter got the sub marked as NSFW, and the flurry of posts has made it difficult to hold conversations on the now-quarantined community.