In the wake of concerns regarding abuse and harassment on social networking site Reddit, the company has adopted a new anti-harassment policy with stricter rules and consequences for abusive activity.
A survey of 15,000 Reddit users in April found that negative and offensive content is the number one reason why users avoid the site and encourage their friends to do the same. In a recent statement, interim CEO Ellen Pao said, “The community wants these improvements… We believe less harassment means more participation, leading to more free expression, better conversations, and better communities.”
Since its creation in 2005, Reddit has been a haven for free expression on the web. Although the site’s openness has provided artists, satirists, and enthusiasts of nearly any topic under the sun, this anything-goes nature has also made the site a hotspot for trolling and cyber abuse. Subreddits promoting revenge porn (the practice of getting “revenge” by posting of sexually explicit images of someone without their consent), child pornography, and other illegal activities have popped up, casting a dark shadow over Reddit’s reputation.
Reddit banned child pornography in 2012; they again updated their policy in February to ban “involuntary pornography” such as revenge porn. With these new changes, Reddit has broadened their policy by defining “harassment” as:
Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that Reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.
Under the new policy, users can report abusive content by emailing Reddit moderators, who can remove inappropriate content and ban offending users.
Reddit continues to recognize the importance of free speech, stating that the updated policy “will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99 percent of our users.” The company hopes to make Reddit a safe, inspiring place to share and interact without the underlying threat of abuse and harassment.