Reddit accused of censorship with automated moderator

22 Apr 2014

Reddit, one of the largest message boards on the internet, has been accused of censorship after it removed its technology section from the homepage and admits deleting posts containing certain keywords.

A number of Reddit’s estimated 115m monthly visitors have been up in arms over the technology section’s removal from the homepage, a page so popular with internet users it has been self-described as ‘the front page of the internet’.

The Advanced Publications-owned website made the decision to cut the technology section after they found the section’s dozens of volunteer moderators from across the globe made the section – known as a subreddit – a battleground for their ‘petty squabbles’ and spent more time deciding who could be moderators than actually moderating the content.

In a post made on the site, one of the admins stated: “The past few days have not been your finest hour. We feel that your focus has shifted from moderating your community to squabbling over who is added to the mod list. We’ve come to the conclusion that you are no longer effectively managing your community or moderating this subreddit, and we have decided to remove you from the defaults.”

One user addressed the issue of mismanagement, and noticed a whole range of words were being censored, including ‘National Security Agency’, ‘GCHQ’, ‘Anonymous’, ‘anti-piracy’, ‘Bitcoin’, ‘Snowden’ and ‘net neutrality’.

To create this effective censorship, one of the subreddit’s moderators posted a message saying they used an automated moderator known as AutoModerator that would delete posts with the banned keywords.

The moderating team has since said the group members responsible for this moderating program have been relieved of their duties and have admitted, “We messed up, and we are sorry.”

Reddit image via Shutterstock, by Gil C

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic