Has Reddit Gone Too Far? Moderators Banning Popular Political Blogs They Deem “Bad Journalism”

reddit-politicsI’ll be the first to admit, I’m not an expert on Reddit.  Aside from when one of our articles picks up some traffic from the website, or when someone pointed me in their direction, I’ve never really paid much attention to the site.

Though I do work with people who are very familiar with Reddit and have expressed to me a great deal of concern over the rampant banning that seems to be going on over there.  Particularly of blogging sites, but some other “mainstream” sites as well.

From my understanding, Reddit is a site driven by user submitted content so that people have one place to find some of the latest and greatest news or Internet wonders from whatever subreddit they venture into.

Well, apparently Reddit’s political moderators have gotten a little “ban happy” lately.  In fact, from the evidence, some of these moderators seem to have their own agenda as to what they believe is good or bad journalism.  But wait, I thought the point of Reddit was for its users to determine what is and isn’t “good journalism?”  Isn’t that why they submit articles and why they vote “up” or “down” on what they like and dislike?

Granted, I’m only talking about the subreddit “politics” right now.  I can’t speak for other sections of the website.

I’ve tried to understand Reddit’s policies based on what people who are familiar with the site tell me, yet I never seem to get any direct answers.  The “why” a site gets banned, or an article is removed, seems entirely up to what moderators subjectively deem “against Reddit’s policies.”  What’s worse is there’s really no definite guidelines one has to follow to ensure they’re not banned or their articles aren’t deleted.

Here at Forward Progressives, we’ve had our articles deleted several times.  We’ve had articles in the top 1-3 in their politics subreddit magically get removed, often for completely bogus reasons.  Which brings me back to the point of letting Reddit’s users decide.  Again, wasn’t that whole premise behind Reddit to begin with?  An open forum for the people to decide what they want to see?

But it’s not just us who have had articles magically disappear, others have seen the same and some have even been outright banned from the subreddit altogether.

Now, if these sites were indeed “spamming” Reddit, I get why they might have been banned.  Here at Forward Progressives, we never personally post anything (nor instruct anyone to do so on our behalf) on the site.  If something of ours shows up, it does so because a random reader submitted it and Reddit’s viewers liked what we produced.

I even get some of the sites I see on that banned list — to be quite honest, some of them are pure garbage.  You know, the sites with some “shocking” headline, an embedded video and little to no original commentary.  Or those that basically just copy and paste stories from other sites to pass them off as their own for cheap traffic.

However, I do see sites similar to ours on the banned list that might take “mainstream” stories and provide not just the details, but our own personal opinions on the issue.  Because while the essence of the story might be similar, we always pick stories that strike a personal chord with us and add our own unique insights on what we feel about the issues at hand.

But even further, on the banned list are sites that have done remarkable journalism.  While sites that do absolute garbage are free to be posted at any given moment.  Mother Jones was initially on the banned list — for what, nobody knows.  They were just removed from the list yesterday in a decision by the reddit politics moderators, who still haven’t specified why they were banned to start with.  The moderators did apparently reassess the entire list of banned sites, but Mother Jones is the only one that’s been unbanned at this time.

The Huffington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012, remains banned.  Salon.com also remains banned, as well as several other sites that make you scratch your head and wonder what’s going on.  It could be they were gaming the system in some way, but it also could be that the moderators just thought they had seen too many sensationalized stories from them.  Without clear cut answers from these moderators, it’s all speculation.

But the more I ask people about Reddit, and what Reddit is about, the less the answers seem clear.  I always thought Reddit to be the beacon for “free speech” and “user content.”  But then I read about popular sites, a whole host of them, being banned for what a handful of moderators apparently deem “bad journalism.”

So I just don’t get it.  What the heck does Reddit want to be?  A shill for a handful of sites that they feel are acceptable?  Because that’s what it seems to be coming down to.

And the thing is, Reddit is a remarkable vessel for content and news.  It really can serve as a wonderful outlet to bring people together to get stories from all around the world in one place.  But what good is that if that content is so watered down and filtered that Reddit is only allowing specific news or opinions from specific places?  Isn’t that basically censorship via the Reddit moderators?

Now don’t get me wrong, I get a site having a set of rules laid out that must be followed.  But when those rules are then handled subjectively, with moderators labeling a site (or its content) as “bad journalism” basically whenever they see fit, at what point do they need to validate their claims against those sites?  If there’s something else going on with these sites cheating the rules, shouldn’t we at least be made aware to some extent what’s going on?

But I really like what Mother Jones co-editor Clara Jeffrey said about being mystified by Reddit’s ban:

“Particularly for something that’s entire ethos is about openness and user-driven conversation, right?  It’s not something you expect in a free society, and especially for something that prides itself as being at the bleeding edge of user driven content and First Amendment principles.”

Which takes me back to my point about Reddit.  I was always lead to believe the site was created for users to drive content, not for a group of volunteer moderators to censor whatever material they deem “low quality.”

So it just brings me back to my question, “What does Reddit want to be about?”  Because I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t know anymore.  Looking at the list of “banned sites” in r/politics, I don’t feel that going to this subreddit will give me an open view to the world of politics.  Instead I feel it’s no different than any other bias site which censors whatever content they oppose while allowing whatever content they support.  Because it seems these days, at any moment, any site could be banned from their politics subreddit simply because some moderators decided they object to what users have been posting from that site.

But at the end of the day, who does Reddit have to answer to?  Simply put, everyone.  We all have a voice.  If we decide to make our voices heard, Reddit will have to listen.

And you can do so by letting them know directly what you think — good or bad — about their recent decisions.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


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