That Reddit has enforced a series of clear double-standards is no secret. Those around long enough to have witnessed it will point to how Reddit staff ignored the harassment of people such as my colleague Steven “Destiny” Bonnell or the Starcraft player Ilyes “Stephano” Satouri that was co-ordinated by the subreddit known as “SRS.” This even included hosting what would now inarguably be classified as revenge porn in the case of Bonnell. Reddit’s stance was to ignore it, state that there was no evidence that moderators were involved even though these co-ordinated efforts took place on their subreddit, or that moderators weren’t responsible for the actions of users. Whatever they had to do to deflect. Meanwhile moderators and indeed the complete userbase of subreddits such as “The_Donald” are held responsible for the actions of a lunatic fringe, even if they sanction them directly. The fact this is a bias driven by political ideologies is plain enough to see. No-one even seems to mind the site has decided to take unprecedented action against Trump supporters before pedophiles that use their site.
Discussing these points seems to take up the bulk of Reddit meta discussion. While that goes on the more important double-standard is mostly ignored, namely that a select group of moderators can act in any way they see fit without reprisals. The Reddit model has become so beholden to the efforts of unpaid, unskilled, unscreened volunteers that it is simply too afraid to hold them up to any scrutable standard in case they either leave in droves or, worse, decide to shut down subforums that are huge drivers of traffic and revenue. Find me another business where the CEO has to kowtow to volunteers and meet their demands to hold conference calls with them to explain his actions and I’ll show you one doomed to failure.
The power this group of moderators hold certainly isn’t lost on them, even though they spend their time talking about how difficult their completely voluntary roles are and how they need more tools to ban and sanction opinions they feel uncomfortable with. Each time they get them too. This has lead to subreddits that pose as neutral becoming unpleasant echochambers, driving away those who want to debate the opposite side. People who participate have to look outside of Reddit to find alternate opinions, sometimes, as we saw with reports around the Orlando shooting , even the facts of what happened.
Reddit likes to make the claim it is the front page of the internet. If that is true and we can admit that the internet is a pretty big deal then why do they continuously shirk the responsibility that comes with curating it? Reddit can pretend it shouldn’t be their concern about whether or not certain types of media or individuals factor them in to their business models but when you’ve killed existing models to succeed it certainly should be if you want to keep framing yourself as a positive and benevolent force. It is no longer the front page of the internet but rather the front page of the internet a group of a few hundred moderators would prefer you all to see.
I’ve found myself caught up in that. In the niche world of esports I’ve made a point of writing about scandals, corruption and unfairness. It’s not the most important work in the world but it matters to me and those affected. Ever since I decided to write about Riot Games and the teams, players and personalities that have to exist in their orbit I’ve found myself having to deal with Reddit moderators who have, from the start, gone after my work for no other reason than they don’t approve of it. Naturally I refused to cave in to their constant demands to let them edit and influence my work. This ongoing clash lasted years and resulted in me being banned from Reddit as a whole and the same treatment being extended to my work in the subreddit(s) these individuals control.
When they chose to ban me and my work they framed it as if I was a “bully.” They somehow alleged that I had more reach than their subreddit, which used to be one of the most active on the site, and Riot Games put together. They claimed that my small Twitter following was somehow able to influence the outcome of their web traffic, comparing me to people such as Totalbiscuit who have a following of millions. They said I harassed them. Let me detail what this group of anonymous forum moderators did to me over a span of years simply because I refused to allow them to edit my work or moderate my behaviour outside of Reddit.
– Demanded to edit headlines / content of my work based on their personal feelings about it
– Demanded I reveal sources to them in order to allow my work onto the subreddit
– Removed videos for invented reasons, then later admitted it was “personal”
– Posted private moderator messages in the public domain
– Privately fought over who gets the privilege of banning me
– Admitted to baiting me into responses in order to justify their ban
– Lied about me on external forms of social media, implying I drove a Reddit user to suicide
– Blocked my Youtube channel from Reddit without informing me they had done so
– Banned my content from their subreddit admitting it was to penalise me financially
– Actively applied pressure to my employers to fire me by briefly banning their site content
– Told me I cannot pursue legal action against them if I want to be unbanned
– Had direct contact with my then editor demanding I apologise publicly to lift the ban
– Applied pressure to co-workers to stop working with me by banning their content too
– Lied about me “brigading” my own work with no evidence to ever back up such claims
– Lied about me brigading comments stating I cannot link Reddit comments on my Twitter despite there being no site rules that specifically disallow this
– Lied about issuing warnings in regards to my content ban (no such warnings exist)
– Falsely publicly stated that I have revealed sources and violated other ethical conduct
– Allowed witch hunting comments and threads that have seen me, my family and my partner be threatened
I have publicly provided proof of these activities before in the following Youtube video.
This group of people have gone out of their way to make my life miserable for close to three years. As an edgelord I shouldn’t admit it but at times they have succeeded. They made my working life needlessly stressful. They have cost me sponsorship deals. The extent of my retaliation has been to state that I will write about my experiences and name them if they continue. It is hard for me to comprehend a logic where that makes me the bad guy, especially when I spend all day reading about how “trolls” deserve to be named and shamed in multiple tech publications. It’s not hard to prove that the actions of this group have had a greater impact than the threats and abuse I receive daily at the hand of the average internet dweller.
Despite all of this I have never followed through. I would like to move on. However I continue to routinely suffer the indignity of these volunteers deliberately defaming me in a public arena, which I can’t engage in, without any chance of consequences. Here’s a recent example from a default moderator who operates under the name “ReganDryke.” He publicly stated that I had outed my sources for past stories, which of course isn’t just a ridiculous lie but also one that has the potential to damage my reputation and career. I have already seen it repeated by multiple other users and it’s safe to say that on a long enough timescale that lie will eventually go on to become another readily accepted fact.
This isn’t an isolated incident. Recently after another colleague of mine, Duncan “Thorin” Shields, recorded a Youtube video discussing the position of women in esports, he decided to accuse Shields of “hate speech” and delete it on those grounds.
This is not a frivolous accusation; hate speech is a crime punishable by imprisonment in the United Kingdom. As such it comes with a very specific definition, none of which would be found in the supposedly offending video. While these allegations were subsequently deleted, as happened in my case, the damage is done. A lie coming from a seemingly authoritative source will be believed and repeated. The damage this could have done to the reputation of Shields, who is no stranger to controversy, cannot be understated.
Not only that, Reddit staff have promoted that you or I are not allowed to discuss moderators and their work on platforms such as Twitter without there being consequences. No such rules seem to apply to moderators themselves. In my case I can link you to multiple examples of the same moderators who have done all of the above to me also be allowed to post tweets about myself, my work and my fanbase.
So, we see a situation where someone with authority on a website that generates millions of views every week is allowed to publicly defame and lie about whoever they wish, to accuse them of crimes if they so choose, without any chance Reddit will stop them. They get to do this while completely anonymous. When in the future I might have to explain their false accusations to future employers, they will never face a situation where they have to explain their behaviour to anyone, no matter how reprehensible. This, I am told, is allowed because as a “public figure” you become fair game. Well, I think if you somehow fluke your way into a position of power over people that suit that label, and choose to openly speak about them and their line of work in a public forum, you yourself have become a “public figure” whether you want to be or not.
This certainly seems to be Reddit’s viewpoint too. They publish all their employee names on their site in what I presume is a move to encourage transparency. Given that there’s an abundance of evidence that shows moderators of sizeable subs to have an equal, if not greater amount, of impact on the day-to-day running of the site, I wonder why the same desire for transparency isn’t extended. The answer is obvious; fewer people would volunteer because the ability to fuck with people anonymously is tacitly understood and promoted by Reddit to be a perk of the job. They will not even enforce their own guidelines when it comes to moderator behaviour, known as modiquette, in case there’s push back from these petulant children.
I’ve patiently waited for this to stop. I’ve contacted Reddit staff dozens of times only to be ignored. I’ve requested threads that leave indelible lies about me for public viewing to be deleted. I’ve asked that threads that copy my work with no credit be removed. I’ve spoken with their legal department who initially complied but have since refused to release a copy of data held about me, I suspect because some internal discussions have violated their own terms of service. I’m now at the stage where I’m tired of extending good faith towards a system that is inherently unfair and has continually impacted on my work and personal life.
It’s clear Reddit aren’t going to take any form of action. This means they happily support their moderators defaming public figures, penalising people for things they say on other social media platforms and using Reddit’s size and “success” as the means through which to do it. For a site that professes to be against harassment and wants its users to “remember the human” it sure makes for a great tool with which to try and ruin those you don’t approve of. It’s better at that than it is at content aggregation these days. Fortunately for me I feel my platform is at a size where I don’t have to tolerate it any more and I’m not going to. I don’t need the traffic nor want to support a business that endorses and encourages these practices. It’s time for accountability.