A leaked chat log between Reddit employees and volunteer moderators over whether or not to ban links to Jezebel and Gawker because of articles the sites published that gave out Reddit users’ personal information reveals Reddit’s official hands-off approach to handling censorship.
Quick backstory: This Wednesday, Jezebel ran an article about a controversial subreddit called Creepshots where men posted pervy photos of women in public and the anonymous Tumblr, “Predditors” (now password-only), which listed real names of those men. The same day, it came to light on Reddit that a powerful moderator involved in Creepshots’s real name would be revealed in an upcoming profile on Gawker. Revealing other users’ real names and personal information is a huge sin on Reddit, and many Reddit moderators voluntarily chose to ban any links to Gawker media sites as retribution for the crime of releasing Redditors’ info.
In the IRC chat log, posted anonymously in a Pastebin text document, appears to have taken place on Thursday, mainly addressing the Jezebel article. Volunteer moderators ask Reddit employees including general manager Eric Martin for help in banning the offending material and to take further action.
The admins tell the moderators that they have done a site-wide ban to the predditors tumblr link, much to the moderators’ relief. However, the moderators want it taken a few steps further, since the Jezebel article links to the Tumblr, they want the Jezebel article blocked as well:
redtaboo: ok, spladug the jezebel article links to it though
spladug [Reddit Admin]: that’s not exactly something we can fix, redtaboo
redtaboo: you can remove that article
MillenniumFalc0n: …couldn’t you ban that specific jezebelle article?
solidwhetstone: is reddit going to be making a public statement any time soon?
Kemitche [Reddit admin]: would we then have to remove articles that link to the jezebel article?
sodypop: The Jezebel article also contains personal information other than the predditors site, right?
Solidwhetstone: either to the members or the public?
Kemitche: and articles that link that articles that link to jezebel?
GuitarFreak: why not just ban the whole site?
The moderators do not appear offended by the article being critical —they’re appear to be only worried about the personal info link. At no point in the chat do they discuss the content of r/creepshots or the right of people to post those photos; they’re intently focused only on the issue of user info being revealed. They are intensely fearful of being “doxxed” – having their real names and other personal information (“pi”, as they refer to it), such as the workplace, address, or family members’ names revealed:
spladug [Reddit admin]: deleting things that link to bad links is not sustainable. what if it were in a wikipedia article, should we ban that whole domain?
redtaboo: ok, do you see where this gets us though? this puts us in the position of wondering what happens when it’s one of us
MobileFalc0n: I think you should require mods to remove links on a case by case basis. For instance, with the jezebelle article which clear links to pi
MobileFalc0n: Most mods are removing it anyways, but you should step in with the few who dont
MobileFalc0n: This is an example of malicious doxxing, designed to incite a witch hunt
chromakode [Reddit admin]: redtaboo, we understand. what can we do to help in such a case?
redtaboo: enforce the removing of all PI
ManWithoutModem: start by banning /r/srs and PI
spladug: redtaboo: we can’t control things that aren’t on reddit. they could just as easily dox any of us admins too. fundamentally, they will have to face the consequences of their own actions and we can’t control that.
Reddit general manager Erik Martin joins the chat from the Reddit bus, where he’s been touring with Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian advocating for the internet in politics. He addresses the moderator’s fears:
hueypriest [Eric Martin]: i understand everyone is worried about being doxxed. and understand you don’t agree with not banning the jezebel link, but we have a pretty good track record of banning personal info quickly, and i think have been pretty consistent over the years
solidwhetstone: reddit =/= phone company…i think that parallel breaks down
sodypop: Without assurances of anonymity, I have very little motivation to put in the many hours I spend moderating.
Hueypriest: this is a unique case we have not encountered before
Raerth: hueypriest, it’s not an unpredictable case
Currently, a site-wide ban on the specific link to the offending Gawker and Jezebel articles are in effect, but it’s up to moderators whether or not to ban links to other Gawker media links. The reason for the ban on the two stories is not because they are critical of Reddit, but because they contain personal information on Redditors.
Eric Martin told FWD earlier this week on Reddit’s policy, “we don’t get in involved unless it has someting to do with rules,” in this case, the rule being about personal information being posted. Peeking into the process of admins negotiating with overzealous moderators about what kind of content can be posted to Reddit verifies what admins have always said: they’re pretty hands-off and act more as courtroom bailiffs than judges.
Update: Erik Martin tells BuzzFeed FWD via email: “The sitewide ban of the recent Adrien Chen article was a mistake on our part and was fixed this morning. Mods are still free to do what they want in their subreddits.”
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I think we’re forgetting that the Reddit admins are concerned about maintaining site policy, inasmuch as it exists, first. They want to be consistent, but they never said anything about policing the site. That would defeat the purpose of Reddit, wouldn’t it? Think about the consequences of what you suggest.
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The creeps at the unsavoury subreddits argue that because women and girls leave their houses in anything but amish clothes, they want to be photographed without their knowledge and posted online. The women won’t admit it, but they want it. Nevermind that it may be warm outside, or they are not aware of how a top shifted and accidentally exposed some skin, or haven’t factored in that skirts are pulled up when you sit down. They all see women and girls as coldly calculating succubi. There are no accidents or mistakes, everything is on purpose, and that purpose is to screw men over. These same men think that all women are idiots and incapable of rational thought, except when it comes to honeytrap men, then all (attractive) women are evil masterminds. It’s even more difficult for these creeps to understand that someone can be trying to dress to attract one PARTICULAR person. They can’t see the difference between themselves and everyone else. If a woman wants to attract and yes, even have sex with, a particular person, that somehow translates into “she wants to sleep with anyone”. They don’t even consider that when teenage girls act all confident and as if they are fully aware of how they affect boys and know all about sex and sexuality, it’s and ACT. Or they might think that they know everything, but they don’t. They are only a few years away from being children, but the creeps assume that teenage girls have somehow managed to amass a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight into male sexuality? Of course, the girls who may know something usually do do because they’ve dated and had sex with guys, but that makes them sluts and that’s bad. So girls and young women are assumed just wake up one day and be full-fledged experts on male sexuality. This is why I have no faith in these perverts ever understanding why what they’re doing is so wrong, they are seriously warped in the head. To untangle that mess of delusional ideas and fallacies is not humanly possible. My proposal is to empty an isolated island somewhere and dump them all there. Give them food, shelter and a satellite hook up so that they can watch tv and surf the web, but make it impossible for them to upload anything on www, make it so that they can only chat with each other on the island’s network. That way they can be kept placated by confirming their stupid ideas to each other only, and not bother the rest of the world with them.
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Er, if you think this was handled well, you haven’t been paying attention. For months now, redditors have been posting upskirt and other shots of women taken surreptitiously that the women would definitely not want on a public forum. This included minors. The Reddit admins did nothing. And pictures like that are being posted to Reddit nonstop as we type. But when one Reddit pedophile troll got his name published in an interview he granted, the Reddit admins freaked the fuck out and did a site-wide ban on links to the interview. No matter where you stand on the privacy issue, Reddit’s admins bungled it. Unless, of course, like the Reddit admins, you think no woman on Earth deserve any privacy, but a pedophile troll does.
I actually think they’re handling this really well. I find the whole creepshots thing completely unsettling, but since it’s not technically illegal, it shouldn’t be banned (as long as they’re 18+). And while I would normally object to people’s personal info being dug up, the fact that they’re doing something super creepy makes it sorta in the public interest to find out how these people are and to shame them into stopping. Because oh god they should stop. If people start digging into private userinfo just because they express an unpopular opinion or something, then I have a real problem with it. But in this specific case, I’m quite ok with it. Reddit’s response seems pretty smart too. They’re measuring their users’ privacy against their freedom to post what they want. And while other folks might worry about people being critical of their site, the reddit admins don’t seem to care. Which is cool.
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Jimmy: I’m not arguing these people haven’t done something wrong; they have. I’m arguing that there are significant flaws in the “privacy is only for bad people” idea, which comes up time and again in every privacy debate. There’s a reason why your bedroom and bathroom don’t have street-facing floor-to-ceiling windows.
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Fiji Wiji, while I would ban the creepshots-type content in a heartbeat if it were my site, your “you wouldn’t worry about your info being public unless you’re doing something wrong” argument doesn’t stand up very well. There are plenty of valid reasons why you wouldn’t want everything you do on the web attached to your personal details.
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