I’m not a regular Reddit user. I signed up to try it last year because I noticed my site traffic exploded whenever one of my posts got upvoted on the forum. Since I never actually crossed over into a consistent user, I’m still trying to get my head around how the community operates. Headlines in recent days about the fact that Glenn Greenwald’s blockbuster article on the Intercept detailing how spy agencies work to intentionally ruin a person’s reputation using lies and false stories, was consistently being banned on the subreddit “r/news” have been making the rounds.
For those unaware, r/news is a default subreddit which all users are automatically subscribed to, thus it generates a huge amount of traffic. It’s basically the front page news section of the 64th most popular website in the world (according to Alexa data). That’s a big freakin’ deal.
Like other subreddits, r/news has rules and those rules are enforced by a group of people known as moderators. The categories r/news aims to avoid are:
Opinion/Analysis. This section includes domains such as Alternet, DemandProgress, and OpposingViews – basically any domain which predominantly purports misleading or analytic content, or opinionated content (such as op-eds), or content which intends to promote one cause over another. /r/news is for strictly factual news reporting, and as such opinion posts and analysis posts are removed.
Not news. This section includes domains such as change.org, facebook.com and kickstarter.com. While these may be mostly self-evident, the section is added to filter out any non-news stories, something which to an extent goes hand in hand with our limitation on opinion and advocacy posts as described above.
Satire. The reasoning behind the filtering of these domains is pretty self-evident.
Unreliable source. Basically any source which has proven to be highly unreliable or misleading. Included are a few conspiracy domains, as well as any other unreliable outlet – like self-reporting services or personal blogs.
Rebloggers. Basically any domain which engages heavily/solely in the copying and pasting of other journalists’ work in an attempt to pass it off as their own.
Spam. Almost entirely consisting of domains which are submitted by the spammers which you’ll sometimes see plaguing the ‘new’ queue at night in the United States, with titles like “bus service Delhi” or “best SEO marketing”.
Basically, if you fall into the categories above, you can get banned from r/news. The reason that people are all up in arms about this is that Glenn’s breaking story is undoubtably news. Yet, due to the fact Greenwald is an outspoken critic against NSA abuses, the Reddit moderators of r/news deemed it not to be news.
These moderators appear to be taking the bullshit statist line that if you have an opinion you are an “activist” and not a “journalist.” Obviously this is nonsense, as you can clearly be both an activist and a journalist. These are not, and never have been, mutually exclusive. Furthermore, what about the fact that so many of the so-called “experts” being called on mainstream T.V. news to give their opinions are actually on the payroll of major corporations and these conflicts of interest are never clearly disclosed to the audience. Is that legitimate news?
With all that in mind, let’s turn to the Daily Dot’s excellent coverage of the story. They explain that:
Mt. Gox’s imminent demise has particularly gripped Reddit communities like r/Bitcoin and r/news following rumors of a $300 million hack that crippled the Japan-based business. Redditors from r/news have also obsessed over Greenwald’s latest Edward Snowden leak—only his story has been banned from the default subreddit.
All links to Greenwald’s piece on the Intercept, a publication founded by First Look Media and home to Snowden’s leaked materials, titled “How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations,” has been removed more than six different times from r/news and at least once from r/worldnews.
In the article, Greenwald provides images from a Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) documents that show how the clandestine agency has tried to “control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the Internet itself.”
The removal of the article was carried out by r/news moderators, volunteer gatekeepers of subreddits who have the power to ban users and content that either break Reddit’s official rules or rules instituted by each individual forum.
Moderator positions, particularly those on default subreddits like r/news, are coveted positions. All new registered Reddit users are automatically subscribed to these subreddits when they join, and most never unsubscribe from them. And thanks to Reddit’s 112 million–plus unique visitors last month, a permanent place on Reddit’s front page results in tremendous traffic and attention for sites submitted to these forums.
With that in mind, let’s get into the head of one of these moderators. From the Daily Dot:
“It’s all hype and distorted by partisanship. It’s not a news story and doesn’t belong in /r/news,” nickwashere09 told me. “I stood beside [fellow r/news moderator douglasmacarthur] and the rest when RT was banned, and I’ll continue to do the same now. I did not accept the mod position to allow the board to become worse.
“We are the official news board of the Front Page of the Internet. We have rules.”
That’s a bit authoritarian sounding isn’t it? In any event, even if we decide to let the moderators of r/news off the hook in this particular case, there seem to be other very disturbing instances of censorship on this subreddit. For example, Russia Today, or RT is actually banned.
Apparently, this is due to a Kremlin bias at the news channel. Even if this is true, you can’t tell me that U.S. mainstream news organizations aren’t biased. Fox News is obviously biased toward the Republican Party, and MSNBC is clearly biased to the Democrats. Are these news outlets also banned on r/news? If they are banning news stations based on propaganda peddling, you can pretty much go ahead and ban everything.
Not to mention that most mainstream news is just complete and total mindless garbage to begin with, as Conan O’Brien has exposed on so many occasions. Is this what r/news is trying to promote?
With regard to RT, The Daily Dot explains that:
The ban nickwashere09 is referring to happened in August, when douglasmacarthur banned RT.com, a Russian news network formerly known as Russia Today, which harbors a clear anti-American bias, from r/news. The reason: vote manipulation and spamming.
The move sent off shockwaves across Reddit. The community called for douglasmacarthur to be removed from his position and falsely accused him of stealing $8,000 in funds raised for a Restore the Fourth protest against NSA surveillance.
On Sept. 1, RT.com fired back against the ban. The news organization published a screengrab of a conversation between r/news moderator BipolarBear0 and former Restore the Fourth member Michael Reed. The mod stated RT.com had been shut out “simply because it’s Kremlin.” This is something douglasmacarthur denied.
In the end, dougalsmacarthur did not give into to the community’s demands; RT.com remains banned. This will likely be the case regarding Greenwald’s article, nickwashere09 added.
Sorry, but something is definitely not right at Reddit, at least within the r/news subreddit. All users or potential users should be aware of what is going on.
Full article here.
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