Pokemon Go subreddit goes dark to protest Reddit’s stance on COVID disinfo

    
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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.

Further reading:

Source: Vice, Kotaku, Reddit, CNN
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Neurotic

My CW DC brothers and sisters, yo!!

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rayraycharlie

Too little and too late. The sheer amount of misinformation, combined with a lack of consensus among healthcare leaders (i.e. Physicians), has helped fuel this nightmare. I fear that these actions will further polarize the community they wish to protect. These subs should have done this a year ago if they wanted to do some good. This is just the tail wagging the dog.

Leo
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Leo

them social media companies care more about their monthly average users and engagement numbers and ad revenue than human society

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Randall Kilgore Jr.

Personally, I think Reddit is doing the best thing possible by not shutting down info that’s wrong. Just because it’s wrong doesn’t mean it should be shut down/silenced; it should be defeated with better info and discussion.

Fisty
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Fisty

Hmmm. Any ideas how that would happen today? Doesn’t seem like facts have won, ever.

EmberStar
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EmberStar

The German physicist Max Planck said that science advances one funeral at a time. Or more precisely: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

In otherwords, the people who believe the words of the dead muskrat that rides on a fat white guy will probably die of old age before they “realize the error of their ways.” You can’t defeat liars with truth – they just come up with a new set of lies.

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Vanquesse V

Here’s the thing though. Any time reddit has done a purge of problematic subs, the overall amount of problematic content has gone down significantly across the site.
And the idea of fighting this with info and discussion assumes that this is a gentlemanly fight which it absolutely isn’t. Their feelings don’t care about your facts.

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Sarah Cushaway

^ This right here.

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DJ Meowth

Modern disinformation campaigns can’t be defeated like that. If you try to correct the disinformation, the disinformers just scream louder than you while ignoring everything you say. They point to your attempts to correct them as proof that they’re right and a victim of a conspiracy to silence their truth-telling. While everyone is scratching their heads trying to figure out an effective way to gently deal with them, their disinformation spreads and causes more illness, injury, and death.

It’s so much easier to ban their accounts and subreddits. Yeah, there’ll be a lot of hand-wringing about ‘freedom of speech’ as though that applies to privately-owned, for-profit social media sites. Some folks will start claiming that banning twitterers and redditors who say injecting bleach into your lungs cures COVID will be the start of a slippery slope that ends in a Mad Max style post-apocalypse, but as far as I can tell, that’s just more disinformation.

Turing fail
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Turing fail
Harry Koala
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Harry Koala

Unfortunately that doesn’t work all that well. People pushing disinformation without regard to evidence tend towards the Gish Gallop where a firehose of half-truths, lies and misunderstanding can be thrown out far faster than they can be refuted (named after infamous creationist Duane Gish).

One incorrect sentence gets put out without evidence. Takes a few seconds. Someone responds with a detailed argument about why it is wrong with various bit of supporting evidence, which takes half an hour to write up and dig up the references. Original person comes back by largely ignoring that or dismissing it with no good reason, and spouts several more bits of randomly selected bollocks. Now, who wants to spend a few hours refuting all of it in detail, when the response is going to be more of the same.

This isn’t a discussion where anyone changes their mind, and the only person who learned anything is probably the person who took the time to research their thoroughly ignored answer.

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Sarah Cushaway

Actually, harmful misinformation that is getting people killed absolutely should be shut down.

The people on those subs refuse to listen to better info or discussion; they immediately ban anyone who tries to point out the false info or how it’s getting people killed.

Turing fail
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Turing fail

IMO, spreading disinformation that gets people sick/killed is like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater…

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Bruno Brito

Somewhere, Popehat just had a stroke.

Edit: Lemme clarify that: The “Fire in a crowded theater” analogy is wrong, and no one should use it.

Three Generations of a Hackneyed Apologia for Censorship Are Enough

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Vanquesse V

The amount of “enlightened centrism” going on at the top of reddit is both predictable and very depressing.