Home > News > Reddit’s technology subreddit ‘censorship’ crisis has a simple explanation

Reddit’s technology subreddit ‘censorship’ crisis has a simple explanation

All of the “censored” topics have their own places for discussion.


Reddit has been in the news again after Daily Dot reported last week that its technology subreddit (the name for a topical subforum) had been auto-deleting posts that included keywords such as “NSA,” “net neutrality,” “Bitcoin,” “Obama,” “Comcast,” or “Bitcoin,” amongst others. This incident has led Reddit’s administrators to remove the technology subreddit from the high-traffic frontpage of the site, and led on Tuesday to its moderation team being turfed.

“We decided to remove /r/technology from the default list because the moderation team lost focus of what they were there to do: moderate effectively,” Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s director of communications, is quoted as saying.

But removing the hyperbole and cries of censorship from the situation at hand one might find a more benign explanation for the auto-deleting: there are other topical subreddits for discussions that would involve the vast majority of the keywords in question. For example, there’s a dedicated Bitcoin subreddit and the bulk of the topics submitted on the NSA, net neutrality, or Obama would be dealing with the political not technological.

In Daily Dot’s original post on the matter, the subreddit’s moderator, “agentlame”, is quoted as saying some automation is required in the moderating process because of the sheer traffic of the forum.

“We don’t have enough active mods and posts that break our rules can make it to the front page in less than an hour,” agentlame said. “So we’re stuck using a bot.”

The generally accepted social contract of most online communities like Reddit is that some moderation is required to maintain the quality of conversation. Without these watchful eyes, most online discussion forums would quickly turn into a cesspool of racial and other epithets, vicious personal attacks, pornography, off-topic discussions and partisan blogspam. Removing said things is not censorship; opinions that are different or radical are not being squashed.

It very well could be that the /r/technology moderation team was auto-removing submissions with these keywords as some kind of nefarious plot. But in all likelihood they weren’t, and until that can be proved otherwise let’s assume that they are innocent.

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