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Reddit Responds to Criticism of Not Doing Enough to Combat Misinformation

Reddit App Login Screen Logo July 2018 AH 2020
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Reddit has faced criticism in the past for not doing enough to combat misinformation. Its CEO Steve Huffman has now spoken out against the criticism leveled against the company in a Reddit post (via Engadget). In this thread titled ‘Debate, dissent, and protest on Reddit,’ Huffman says that Reddit will continue to deal with COVID-19 misinformation by directing users to the CDC for appropriate information.

However, Huffman said that the platform would not ban subreddits or communities that “challenge the consensus views on the pandemic.”

Reddit has locked the CEO’s thread on r/announcements. This means that Reddit users cannot reply to the thread. “Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate. This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus. This includes conversations that criticize those that disagree with the majority opinion,” Huffman said in the post.

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Reddit currently places violating subreddits under “quarantine” along with a disclaimer

This reaction by Huffman was reportedly brought along by a thread on r/vaxxhappened. This thread accused the company of not doing enough and sought effective handling of misinformation. The subreddit is generally known for sharing memes of anti-vaxxers. However, the group decided to take a more stringent stance given the circumstances around the pandemic.

“We call upon Reddit to take action against the rampant Coronavirus misinformation on their website,” the title of the post read. It didn’t take long for this thread to go viral, with over 170,000 people upvoting it.

Reddit goes relatively unnoticed when it comes to misinformation as the focus is firmly on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. However, it has long been a source of conspiracy theories and even illegal content. As the thread by r/vaxxhappened points out, misinformation “spread readily through inaction and malice” on Reddit.

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The platform currently places a disclaimer on subreddits that spread disinformation or misinformation. This is accompanied by a “quarantined” badge.  Meanwhile, platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have sought a more aggressive approach towards quelling misinformation. These companies have also faced severe criticism in the past for providing a haven for misinformation.

Like other social media platforms, Reddit’s userbase has witnessed a boost since the pandemic began last year. However, dealing with misinformation has always been tricky on the platform, even before COVID-19 hit the world.