Reddit bans Covid misinformation discussion board after ‘go darkish’ protest

A few of website’s largest subreddits switched to non-public, saying Reddit is failing to deal with misinformation

First revealed on Wed 1 Sep 2021 12.55 BST

Reddit has banned a dialogue discussion board that spreads misinformation about coronavirus and vaccines after a person insurrection over the location’s failure to deal with Covid sceptics.

The net dialogue website acted after 135 Reddit communities, or subreddits, introduced that they had “gone darkish”, a transfer that blocks non-members from studying or becoming a member of the web page, in protest on the website’s refusal to restrict discussions that propagate deceptive theories concerning the pandemic.

Reddit initially refused to ban subreddits recognized as spreading misinformation. Nevertheless it bowed to strain on Wednesday, asserting that it had kicked out r/NoNewNormal – which has 124,000 subscribers and comprises posts warning towards taking Covid vaccines – for breaking guidelines associated to interfering with or harassing different subreddits. The positioning mentioned r/NoNewNormal was responsible of a observe often known as “brigading”, the place members of 1 subreddit are incited to focus on a rival dialogue group.

“We discovered very clear alerts indicating that r/NoNewNormal was the supply of about 80 brigades within the final 30 days (largely directed at communities with extra mainstream views on Covid or location-based communities which have been discussing Covid restrictions). This behaviour continued even after a warning was issued,” mentioned a member of Reddit’s platform security workforce on Wednesday, asserting that the discussion board had been banned.

The r/NoNewNormal group had described itself as “a various worldwide coalition with the shared objective of restoring our previous methods of life earlier than the world fell into the grips of worry and hysteria”. One submit on Tuesday acknowledged: “Being anti-[vaccine] mandate will not be anti-science, it’s pro-freedom, pro-choice.”

Reddit additionally introduced that it had “quarantined” an extra 54 communities, that means it has flagged the teams’ content material as having the potential to be “extremely offensive or upsetting” and stopping it from displaying up on the conventional homepage. It added that the share of Covid-related content material from Covid denial communities has elevated from 1% final yr to greater than 3% presently, with a lot of the enhance occurring since July 2021.

Reddit clarified its pointers on Wednesday, to clarify that it prohibits posting well being info that has been manipulated and introduced to mislead, or poses a danger of great bodily hurt to the reader.

The “gone darkish” protest coated most of the website’s largest subreddits, together with r/Futurology and r/TIFU, which have greater than 10 million subscribers every, though r/TIFU had reopened to non-members after the brand new Reddit assertion.

A message on the r/Futurology discussion board asserting the protest mentioned “persons are dying from misinformation” associated to coronavirus. “Futurology has gone personal to protest Reddit’s inaction on Covid-19 misinformation,” the message mentioned. “Weaponised misinformation is a key downside shaping our future. Reddit received’t implement their insurance policies towards misinformation, brigading, and spamming.”

Reddit initially defended its refusal to ban Covid sceptic teams. Its chief government, Steve Huffman, wrote in a submit final week that the location was a spot for “open and genuine dialogue”. He mentioned: “Dissent is part of Reddit and the muse of democracy. Reddit is a spot for open and genuine dialogue and debate. This consists of conversations that query or disagree with well-liked consensus.”

The r/PokémonGo subreddit, representing gamers of the augmented actuality sport, introduced it was going darkish and would keep personal till Reddit eliminated websites spreading misinformation about Covid. “We now have gone personal in protest of Reddit’s inaction towards Covid misinformation. As our customers know Covid straight impacts this sport as a result of Go is performed outdoors in actual life with others.”

The message added that the group had supported protests towards Pokémon Go’s developer lately after it introduced plans to reverse security measures carried out firstly of the pandemic final yr.

Analysis by the UK and US-based Middle for Countering Digital Hate revealed this yr discovered the overwhelming majority of Covid-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from 12 individuals – together with the Kennedy household scion Robert F Kennedy Jr – with a mixed following of 59 million individuals throughout a number of social media platforms.

CCDH analysed 812,000 Fb posts and tweets and located just below two-thirds got here from the “disinformation dozen”. Fb mentioned it had already taken motion towards among the teams talked about within the report, whereas Kennedy mentioned he had by no means posted an inaccurate assertion on his Instagram account.


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