For once, the Pokemon Go community is protesting someone other than Niantic when it comes to COVID.
Earlier this month, Reddit community leaders began agitating for the Reddit administration to tackle the serious and ongoing problem of COVID-related misinformation on the platform. Reddit apparently quarantined one sub, but it wiggled out of doing more with a statement on Wednesday that said it would further block discussion of fraud and harm (like faking vaccine cards and drinking bleach) but would otherwise be promoting “debate, dissent, and protest” by allowing health disinfo and misinfo subs to continue.
In response, many subreddits went dark. Some were non-gaming related, such as the NFL, EarthPorn, and RoastMe subreddits, but gaming ones, such as r/hearthstone and r/smashbros, also joined in, some of them with millions of followers. And while many of them only briefly went dark, r/PokemonGo continues to do so days later, and it is not alone as per r/PokemonGO subreddit designer and moderator BootsMade4Walking.
We asked Boots why r/PokemonGO remained dark while other subs reopened:
Reddit to my knowledge has not changed their stance since the post Spez made several days ago. We will remain dark until then. We respect that some subs may only want to do so for a day, or a few hours to bring attention to the issue, but for us, Pokemongo is a unique community that promotes physical interaction with each other, and the spread of that information here is not a risk I personally am willing to take.
We had a recent history of being brigaded by users from these misinformation subs and there is a real life risk to our community if they continue to exist.
Interestingly, many of the other subs still participating are also based on fandoms, such as r/FlashTV and r/Arrow. While some Reddit users have argued the mods are taking fandoms hostage, Reddit mods are not paid employees but community members themselves, hosting their community on platforms they are clearly losing faith in. Social media has been struggling with the spread of misinformation for over a year now, and especially when “staff” are unpaid volunteers, it can be a huge struggle for a community combat bad actors brigading against you when your community-host could take actions against them.
POGO fans on Reddit aren’t completely out of luck though, as The Silph Road plans to remain open.
The COVID situation is a hot-button issue for POGO players in particular; as we’ve been chronicling, fans of the Pokemon MMOARG initiated a boycott of the game when Niantic remained bullish on rolling back pandemic-inspired pro-accessibility measures while the pandemic continues to rage.
9/4 Update: The subreddit is back online after Reddit uses data to find that, gasp, COVID discussions in COVID denial subreddits isn’t critically analyzed by its users.