Something’s Being Done About Hate Speech on Reddit

I’m glad online forums are starting to take action against hate speech.

Reddit, for those who don’t know, is a massive forum where visitors can discuss virtually every conceivable topic from TV shows to politics (to obscure things which I’m not sure even make any sense but somehow attract 15 million subscribers). There’s so much to see on the site, one could get lost in there and never come out. It has 542 million monthly visitors and it’s the fourth most visited site in the U.S.

Reddit paraphernalia
We all need to put on our big girl and boy pants and take responsibility for this difference: disagreement is not the same asor a cause forhate.

In an experiment designed to combat hate, Reddit shut down some of their more hateful “subreddits,” or forums dedicated to certain topics.

They had no idea what would happen. But what they found was that those using hateful language seemed to fade away or, if they stayed on in other subreddits, somehow displayed less vitriolic language afterward in other groups.

Angry protestors

I think one fairly obvious lesson here is that hate is as contagious as chickenpox. It only takes one venomous person to convince a whole group of people to throw common decency right out the window. One minute you’re having a healthy intellectual debate and, next thing you know, people are attacking each other’s character because someone started name-calling!

“Whoa, people! You’re doin’ it wrong!”

Apparently, according to Reddit’s example, all we need to do is cut out the hate like an infection and people go back to discussing things like normal people again.

Censorship meme

But “censorship is bad” you (or the 212,362 people that signed this petition) say.

Yes, yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s not forget, though, that freedom of speech was not meant to be a license to hate or harm another with libel or slander. It was established to protect dissenting citizens from a vengeful government.

Reddit is also a private organization. They are well within their rights to close any part of their platform if things are getting out of hand there. If enough people don’t like that, they can go start their own online group somewhere else in the free market.

There is another important point to make here: it is vital that we not conflate disagreement and hate. Free speech exists as a right so we can all talk about the tough stuff, like who gets to be President, privacy rights, journalism laws or religious ideas—and all the while without losing our heads (literally!) just because someone in power didn’t agree.

Brazilian presidential debate

In short it’s to allow for controversial discussions!

We all need to put on our big girl and boy pants and take responsibility for this difference: disagreement is not the same as—or a cause for—hate.

Hate has no place there or anywhere.

So let the ideas flow freely, I say, and the disagreements and debates proceed therefrom.

But, meanwhile, let’s work together to deftly carve out the hate from our lives, even if that means having one or two fewer places (out of the many millions available these days) to talk.

Hans Eisenman
Husband, father of five, software development exec, Scientologist for 35+ years. Consummate geek and foodie with insatiable willingness to laugh.