Yesterday, Reddit went on a tear banning 2000 of the most toxic subs across the platform and instituting a new content policy and enforcement plan that bars “communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability.” The worst offenders swept up in the wave were political in nature, but gaming subs are subject to it too. The news comes on the heels of YouTube’s and Twitch’s major crackdowns on problematic and toxic streamers – both in gaming and in politics – as well as major advertisers’ decision to pull out of advertising on Facebook following its own lukewarm toxicity stances.
Worth pointing out here is that Reddit has performed these purges of awful subs before, and in fact, scientists even studied what happened next, which might not be what you suspect: When Reddit forcibly closed several gross boards in 2015, the ban still worked for Reddit itself, according to the paper on the efficacy of those specific bans.
“Working from over 100M Reddit posts and comments, we generate hate speech lexicons to examine variations in hate speech usage via causal inference methods. We find that the ban worked for Reddit. More accounts than expected discontinued using the site; those that stayed drastically decreased their hate speech usage—by at least 80%. Though many subreddits saw an influx of [banned subs’] ‘migrants,’ those subreddits saw no significant changes in hate speech usage. In other words, other subreddits did not inherit the problem. We conclude by reflecting on the apparent success of the ban, discussing implications for online moderation, Reddit and internet communities more broadly.”
The authors posit that easy alternatives didn’t exist or were also quickly stamped out before they could gain traction, while more borderline-awful subs cleaned up their act in the hopes of not being next on the chopping block. In other words, deplatforming can work. The downside is that some of those users and groups reformed outside of Reddit as Reddit effectively made the users “someone else’s problem” and did not by itself stamp out the problem everywhere. But it likely drove the most awful users to “darker corners of the internet,” from which it’s much harder to infect regular users with said toxicity.
What do you think about Reddit’s new toxicity policy as it pertains to gaming subs?