By Erin Drushel
At a time when internet giants such as Google are making strides to work around censorship in more oppressive countries, the American social news internet company Reddit seems to be taking a different track. Last week Reddit’s political sub-list, /r/Politics, moved to ban certain partisan “news” sites (i.e., Huffington Post, Fox News, etc.) setting off a firestorm of complaints within the community of over 3.1 million readers.
This policy shift was a direct response to some of the most commonly made complaints by the politics “subreddit” community, including too many articles that contained “BlogSpam”, too many sensationalist headlines or stories, and simply “bad journalism”… Welcome to the internet!
These complaints often mirror my own when visiting specific news sites. For example, an article that has one original line followed by fifteen different Twitter comments is not news; an article that has more outside links in it than original content is not news. Value-added is important.
And as for sensational news coverage, perhaps the Reddit moderators haven’t noticed just how many mainstream news sites are headed in that direction (speaking of which, why isn’t CNN on the banned list?).
Believe me; many of us understand the desire to have pure news without having to sift through the garbage. But a site that is designed to allow its users to decide what is good (“up-vote”) and what is bad (“down-vote”) doesn’t have the luxury of circumventing the decisions of those same users; they will ultimately view it as censorship. People choose to go to these websites on a regular basis, and whether you like it or not, this is why some of them are major news sites… even if the term “news” may be loosely applied.
Now, it’s hard to jump down the throats of the Reddit volunteers, they are giving up their spare time to help manage an enormous task. However, if you don’t have enough staff to deal with the fall-out, why are you making such drastic and significant policy changes with seemingly poor planning and reasoning? You don’t have enough people to do all of the moderating; fair enough. But the carte-blanche banning of sites that periodically make your lives more difficult seems over the top.
The creation of a site where news isn’t forced to compete with sensationalist tripe would be fantastic. But when a company – or anyone else – decides to start picking and choosing the sources of information we have access to, inevitably there will be a problem.
At the end of the day, this is simply a case of the well-intentioned gone awry; and, Reddit’s biggest mistake? Assuming idealism reigns over reality.
– Erin Drushel