Trolls and bullies: Reddit joins the battle

Online bullying has been a newsworthy topic over the last few years. The tragic suicides of school children like Hannah Smith and Izzy Dix have been linked with the abuse they received online. Social networks such as Ask.FM in particular came under fire, and changed its approach, installing a ‘panic button’ to help people seek help. Some thought it did not go far enough, with calls to end users’ ability to post anonymous messages.

Cult social network, Reddit, has never come under serious fire for the same issues that plagued Ask.FM and similar, but it seems it is changing its systems before tragedy strikes. Interim CEO Ellen Pao is one of the team which has introduced a policy to help users report bullying.

In a blogpost, the network, known for its focus on free speech, said: “We are unhappy with harassing behaviour on reddit; we have survey data that show our users are, too. So we’ve improved our practices to better curb harassment of individuals on reddit.”

The blog explains that the ability of subreddit moderators to monitor their own subreddits and conversations has, by and large, led to some great discussions and positive changes. However, the team thinks not everything is peachy – sometimes, attacks get personal, and ‘some users are harassing people across platforms and posting links on reddit to private information on other sites’.

Far from being able to promote freedom of expression, the attacks that people risk when they post a comment, make them more hesitant too – and that is from a survey of 15,000 redditors. And those same redditors admitted that they don’t always recommend the site to their friends because of fears of hateful language.

One of the issues that seems to have been a big bugbear for the team, is a post which saw a Sikh girl’s picture taken and used on Facebook. The brave user took to Reddit to explain and defend herself, even being the one to apologise for any confusion and upset she caused.

The blog explains that the changes should not affect the vast majority of reddit users, and they will exist to monitor people rather than ideas. Given the problems that other networks have experienced, it is great to see the network taking proactive, not reactive, steps.

So, from now on, any redditors who are feeling harassed can email contact@reddit.com, including any external links that are needed.