Friday, July 01, 2016

Reddit Explodes In Censorship Debate Again As Users, Mods Censor Islam Stories

Alternative social media site Reddit -- in a musical analogy, it is nothing more than 4AD to Facebook's big media -- has again detonated in controversy after mods, users and possibly admins (but who knows, because only they can see the data) conspired to hide references to Islam after the most recent terrorist attack in Turkey.

Conservative media, who are always the targets of Reddit censorship, have been keeping track of the unfolding Reddit disaster:

Following an AMA in /r/The_Donald by Breitbart Tech editor Allum Bokhari, users began messaging Breitbart reporters with evidence of ongoing censorship across Reddit. We’ve previously reported on the suppression of anti Islamic speech on Reddit’s /r/News subreddit following the Orlando massacre, committed by Omar Mateen in the name of the Islamic State. Similarly, multiple comments relating to the Islamic religion were deleted from the /r/News thread relating to the Istanbul bombings.

The two incidents -- the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and the Istanbul bombings -- are related in that Reddit's new censorship shows the response to what happened after the Orlando incident. As stories trickled in, Reddit's /r/news channel began deleting any references to Islam, at which point user demand for information bumped stories from the Trump channels to the front page. Citing "diversity," Reddit admins made it clear that this would not happen again:

Huffman went on to outline changes that would turn the previously user-driven algorithm on /r/all into something that will likely make it much harder for Trump’s army of Reddittors to use their size and popularity on the site to dominate the frontpage.

We are working on a change to the r/all algorithm to promote more diversity in the feed, which will help provide more variety of viewpoints and prevent vote manipulation.

...Earlier today, Huffman clarified in an announcement that the algorithm change was not intended to target Trump supporters, instead saying that the changes were being introduced to prevent “any one community” from dominating the listings. But given that the change was announced as a direct response to the Orlando Shootings, during which /r/The_Donald dominated the listings, many Redditors aren’t buying it — including the founder of /r/The_Donald, who claims he was told by an admin that the change was specifically intended to curtail them.

Reddit admins can publicly advertise their censorship and face zero consequences because on the main, the average Reddit user goes to Reddit to escape from reality and to find confirmation of his desires in the conversation of others. The goal of Redditors is to deny reality together and by creating an echo chamber, pretend that only the Reddit vision of reality is correct and that everyone else is a stupid jerk who may have gotten more sex than they did in high school, but cannot set up his own web server.

The typical Reddit user is white, middle-class, and thinks Donald Trump is the new Adolf Hitler. He is passionately liberal and involved with technology in lieu of having a social life. He will eventually find some job where he makes good money but then find his salary has peaked and, like all people put out to pasture by our society, will wait in docile catatonia until he can retire and go somewhere to pursue his "hobbies" and then die.

In order to pacify this audience, Reddit tries to be a "safe space" that shields them from reality. This means censoring any news stories that are upsetting to liberals, usually those which do not conform to the narrative that says that conservative white people are the cause of all the world's evils. If users notice an attack was done in the name of Islam, by a Muslim, who was from a non-white or non-conservative background, then their safe space may be shattered and the echo chamber will fail.

This audience replaced Reddit's original group, who were power users and early adopters of new web technologies who distrusted the "social media mindset" that came with other services. They were too few to make Reddit into anything but a small media presence, so in an effort to attract an alternative social media audience, the admins expanded the franchise to people who were not necessarily early adopters but just wanted a social media outlet for non-mainstream opinions.

This has backfired on Reddit, however, because being "alternative social media" also entails being social media, and now people are leaving Facebook and Twitter for Reddit -- and bringing with them the same behavior that made those sites and Reddit equally irritating. Old people, Christians, even some Conservatives have appeared, and this threatens the Reddit "safe space" echo chamber, prompting these recent outbursts.

With that in mind, it is time to start the Reddit Death Clock. The site drove away the audience that made it a repository of unique content, is driven mostly by reposts which come from accounts that often look suspiciously like alts of Reddit employees -- a practice Reddit admits has been policy since the early days, and now is seeing the crowd consisting of Grandma and Phil from Marketing surge onto its channels.

At this point, Reddit is competing with Facebook, and with these extreme levels of censorship, it now has nothing to offer that other social media does not. This will cause Reddit to enter its death spiral as it tries to retain a unique audience by doing the same thing that every other social media site does, in turn driving away that audience and replacing them with feckless users who will happily run along to whatever other trend comes next.

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