Reddit is a popular social media site that is known for its freedom to post anything on your mind in sub-reddits, or communities, that share similar interests. As the pandemic continues, more misinformation spreads on such social media sites, and moderators are asking to take action. Steve Huffman, CEO and co-founder of Reddit, refused to ban anti-vaccine communities on Reddit.
“While we appreciate the sentiment of those demanding that we ban more communities that challenge consensus views on the pandemic, we continue to believe in the good of our communities and hope that we collectively approach the challenges of the pandemic with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to understand what others are going through, even when their viewpoint on the pandemic is different from yours,” CEO Steve Huffman wrote on the site’s official announcements page.From the CNN article, “Reddit turns down moderators who want action on Covid misinformation”
It is questionable to note the use of the word “consensus view” or general agreement rather than a reality. It surely is ironic how Huffman describes Reddit as a place for “empathy, compassion, and a willingness to understand what others are going through” even though the social media site itself does not hold itself to a high standard. Reddit has a negative reputation of being “toxic” and “controversial” since there is so much freedom on the site.
The r/vaxxhappened subreddit, a pro-vaccine website that defines itself as a place to “gather the ridiculous and deadly tales told by dimwitted anti-vaxxers on all forms of media,” published an open letter in reaction to Huffman’s statement. The letter prompted the Reddit founders to ban communities that only exist to spread medical misinformation that could convince others to turn against helping resolve the pandemic. While Reddit is not the only social media site to spread COVID misinformation, it is far easier to spread to the target audience because of its history with hate speech and trolls.
Leaders in Silicon Valley like Zuckerberg and Huffman shouldn’t be able to just walk away from what they’ve built while claiming to support free speech and open discussion, especially when they benefit from the lies and disinformation that their platforms continue to spread.