What It's Like When Redditors Ban Your Interview About Redditors' Content Bans

Friday, November 01, 2013 - 10:05 AM

So according to this thread, our interview with Clara Jeffreys about redditors banning Mother Jones content keeps getting deleted from /r/ politics.

That’s a shame. In happier news, our original interview received some really insightful comments, so I thought I’d highlight a couple. Mike Masnick, Techdirt’s editor, talked about his conversation with a mod who explained why Techdirt was no longer appropriate for /r/ politics.

Most of the bans came about 3 weeks ago. A few of our readers alerted us to it, and it resulted in me having the most ridiculously pointless discussion with the Reddit mod who many say is in charge of this effort. He still has yet to explain why we were banned, other than to insist that they had received many complaints about the sites on that list. When I asked for specifics, none were given.

When I pointed out -- as have many r/politics users -- that if people dislike the content, they can just vote it down, I was told (1) that I do not understand Reddit and (2) that I couldn't possibly comprehend the nature of being a moderator for such a community.

I'm find with the fact that the mods are free to do what they want with their subreddit -- that's part of Reddit culture, which I think is great. I just find it bizarre that they don't seem to have a clear policy on all of this. The same day Mother Jones (and us at Techdirt) were banned, MotherJones was *ALSO* listed as a "notable" site, which is used as an example of good sites.

Finally, when I pointed out to the Reddit mods that rejecting many of the sites in the list appeared to take out direct subject matter expertise and knowledge which likely went beyond the AP sites that were left allowed, I was told that AP reporters are the best reporters in the world, and that I should not question their judgment -- but that "any one in their basement can start a blog."

That this was told to me by an anonymous Reddit mod seemed rather ironic.

Either way, now that they've finally announced this officially, it looks like the response is almost 100% negative, which suggests that, contrary to what I was told, this was exactly NOT what the community there wanted.

We also heard from Angela Motorman, a journalist and long-time redditor. She says that from her perspective, what’s happened at /r/ politics is an ideological coup, and she argues against the possible solution of just starting a new politics subreddit with different moderators. 

From the perspective of a six-year veteran redditor, what is happening at reddit/r/politics is a coup. It's true that the mods are all volunteers, but what's not clear from this interview is that the sitewide admins (claim to) have no recourse when ideologues manipulate the trust-based structure of reddit to close out any possibility of appeal.

First, let's remember what's at stake here: a vibrant community of three million subscribers. So "start another reddit" is not a fair response to redditors who already built this community over most of a decade, only to watch it taken over and locked down by amateur dictators. This is not even remotely a tempest in a teapot, or a footnote to internet history.

There are now about 36 mods on r/politics, and the vast majority of them have no previous demonstrated interest in or knowledge of politics (most user histories are open to public view; anybody can check this), let alone journalism.

They have accomplished a complete betrayal of reddit's mission: reader curated content.

This glorious, messy experient, built on collaborative editing based on merit of individual submissions, has metasticized into rejection of whole domains because the new mods refuse to allow readers to edit their own reading list.

At a time when professional journalists are talking about assessing "acts of journalism" rather than certifying individual reporters, when journalism editors and educators are finally rejecting false equivalence models for deciding fairness, the new mods at r/politics are acting in willfully uninformed lockstep to reject any source that has ever struck them as "sensationalist" or biased.

And their definition of what constitutes politics would be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous: only elected officials and elections count. Their guidelines claim that major movements count as politics, but that's not how they're choosing what to allow or remove. They've removed articles because they didn't know what AP.org and CJR.org are; because "GOP" was in forbidden all-caps format; because a study of astroturfing or gun ownership "isn't US politics, and worse.

A few honest, knowledgeable mods tried to resist the long campaign by right-wing shills to denounce the natural progressive drift of the reddit demographic. Their favored term for the lively, smart conversation in the community was been "cesspool" -- this word is a marker for those who would destroy one of the largest communities within reddit.

It was never true, until now.

If this coup can reversed, it will come about as a result of outside pressure leveraged through the site admins. If they care at all about the original mission of reddit, they need to recognize that the openness of the structure has been manipulated to destroy that mission. They need to listen to the voices of hundreds of redditors, who talked back to the new mods here: http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1pedlv/concerning_recent_changes_in_allowed_domains/

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Comments [6]

Tim Grizzard

Sounds like the work of some of the NPR "Moderators".

Nov. 10 2013 10:12 PM

The /r/politics mods have sealed off their bunker at this point. They posted a barely coherent justification/FAQ at http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1pr4b6/meta_domain_ban_policy_discussion_and_faq/ in order, in my opinion, to isolate complaints about the censorship. I have no idea where these mods came from, but neither politics, nor evaluating the quality of journalism, seem to be their strong points. Mother Jones was thrown out, but the Daily Mail was among the approved publications.

I don't see much sign that they'll do anything beyond correcting a few of the more hilarious parts of the banned/approved lists.

Nov. 03 2013 10:25 AM
Matt from Iowa

Almost sounds like the work of a tech ops crew.
Would a government agency have an interest in breaking off bits of reddit's strengths (like they did with NPR).

I know, tinfoil hat. It was just a thought.

Nov. 03 2013 01:16 AM
John Pacella

Great article, source of many posts to reddit/r. thanks

Nov. 02 2013 07:50 PM
Brant

Yo dawg, I heard you like bans...

Nov. 01 2013 07:05 PM

Well we still love you over at r/democrats.

http://www.reddit.com/r/democrats

Nov. 01 2013 06:53 PM

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