Over 135 subreddits have gone dark this week in protest of Reddit’s refusal to ban communities that spread misinformation about the COVID pandemic and vaccines.
Subreddits that went private include two with 10 million or more subscribers, namely r/Futurology and r/TIFU. The PokemonGo community is one of 15 other subreddits with at least 1 million subscribers that went private; another 15 subreddits with at least 500,000 subscribers also went private. They’re all listed in a post on r/VaxxHappened which has been coordinating opposition to Reddit management’s stance on pandemic misinformation. More subreddits are being added as they join the protest.
“Futurology has gone private to protest Reddit’s inaction on COVID-19 misinformation,” a message on that subreddit says. “Reddit won’t enforce their policies against misinformation, brigading, and spamming. Misinformation subreddits such as NoNewNormal and r/conspiracy must be shut down. People are dying from misinformation.”
Last week, the moderators of over 450 subreddits joined an open letter urging Reddit to “take action against the rampant Coronavirus misinformation on their website,” saying that subreddits existing “solely to spread medical disinformation and undermine efforts to combat the global pandemic should be banned.”
Reddit published a response defending its stance, saying it will continue to allow “debate” and “dissent” on vaccines and other COVID-related matters, even when it “challenge[s] consensus views.”
“We appreciate that not everyone agrees with the current approach to getting us all through the pandemic, and some are still wary of vaccinations. Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy,” the company said.
Reddit does draw a line somewhere, as it said it will continue to take action against communities “dedicated to fraud (e.g. fake vaccine cards) or encouraging harm (e.g. consuming bleach).” But in general, Reddit said, “we believe it is best to enable communities to engage in debate and dissent, and for us to link to the CDC wherever appropriate.”
Encouraging anti-vaxxers would definitely fall under the category of encouraging harm.