Reddit has taken a significant measure to address protests against the platform by removing moderator teams from several popular subreddits. This action was prompted by the subreddits’ decision to allow explicit and not-safe-for-work (NSFW) content as a form of protest against Reddit’s controversial API change. The API change poses a risk of shutting down several third-party apps.
In permitting NSFW content, the subreddits aimed to undermine Reddit’s ability to generate advertising revenue, as forums that allow such posts are prohibited from displaying ads. Consequently, users may have encountered a stream of nudity and other risque imagery on Tuesday. One notable example is the subreddit r/interestingasfuck, which boasts 11 million readers and has become inundated with explicit content. Other subreddits that have followed suit include r/pokemongo, r/Formula1, and r/videos, which have also opened the floodgates to NSFW posts.
In response to the protest tactic of allowing NSFW content, Reddit has taken swift action to suppress the movement. The platform has removed the volunteer moderator teams from subreddits such as r/interestingasfuck, r/self, r/TIHI (Thanks, I hate it), and r/shittylifeprotips. Additionally, Reddit initially removed the entire moderator team of r/mildlyinteresting but later reversed the decision. However, most of their privileges were revoked after the subreddit permitted NSFW content.
Moderator Frustration and Lack of Communication
“I honestly don’t even have words for this situation right now,” expressed a moderator for r/mildyinteresting, highlighting their frustration when the crackdown occurred. They described the lack of communication and the absence of substantial responses to their questions in ModMail. The moderators felt helpless as their posts were removed, their accounts locked, and the entire moderation team was eliminated. Furthermore, they expressed disappointment in the disregard shown towards the 40,000 people who voted either to make the subreddit private or to establish new rules.
However, Reddit has defended its actions by stating that the affected subreddits violated the platform’s rules. According to a Reddit spokesperson who spoke to The Verge, “Moderators incorrectly marking a community as NSFW is a violation of both our Content Policy and Moderator Code of Conduct.” The spokesperson emphasized that exposing users to NSFW (Not Safe for Work) content is unacceptable when they do not wish to see it. Reddit also stated to PCMag that they would take action against moderators who engage in malicious conduct, such as allowing rule-breaking behavior or promoting sexually explicit content in previously safe-for-work spaces, in accordance with their Moderator Code of Conduct.
While the measures taken by Reddit may seem drastic, the CEO of the platform, Steve Huffman, has expressed his readiness to take a stricter stance. In an interview with NBC News, Huffman referred to the volunteer moderators supporting the protests as the “landed gentry” and threatened to revise Reddit’s policies to remove them from their positions.
The Demand of Reddit for Reopening Private Subreddits
Reddit reiterated its stance to PCMag: “It’s not OK to show people NSFW content when they don’t want to see it. In line with our Moderator Code of Conduct, we’ll remove moderators and restrict communities where moderators are engaging in malicious conduct, like allowing rule-violating behavior or encouraging the submission of sexually-explicit content in previously safe-for-work spaces.”
Many subreddits had initially gone private in response to the protests, rendering them inaccessible to users. However, following Huffman’s threat, some subreddits have reopened this week. Nevertheless, various subreddits have resorted to alternative forms of protest, such as allowing NSFW content or implementing peculiar rules like exclusively permitting content featuring British comedian John Oliver.
On the other hand, specific subreddits have chosen to remain private. However, Reddit has started sending messages to these communities, demanding they reopen or face consequences. In a message sent to a small subreddit called Hentai_in_Peril, Reddit stated, “If this community remains private, we will reach out soon with information on what steps will take place.”