Ellen Pao is the interim CEO of the user-generated news site, Reddit (Corbis)
Ellen Pao is the interim CEO of the user-generated news site, Reddit (Corbis)

Reddit anti-harassment policy: site introduces rules to keep people safe and report problems

Site has come in for continued criticism about the lax way that it regulates harassment and other abuse

Andrew Griffin
Friday 15 May 2015 08:47

Reddit has finally introduced rules to crack down on harassment and bullying, responding at last to the long-standing criticism that the site is too laid back about users’ safety.

The change comes as the site looks to be more open and responsive to various kinds of abuse of the platform — it launched a transparency report, showing what had been banned, in January and in March finally banned revenge porn from being posted. Reddit said that the new rules had come about because administrators were unhappy with harassing behaviour, and survey data showed that users felt the same.

The new rules make clear that harassment will be banned from the site, and give users new ways of reporting those problems. But the policy still seems to rely on users reporting that they or others are being harassed, rather than being a pro-active manual or automatic way of penalising those who harass others.

The new policy defines harassment as: “Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.”

If users feel that they are being harassed, Reddit encourages them to report the message or post by either emailing it to contact@reddit.com or sending it over Reddit’s internal messaging service.

Reddit said that its lax approach to stopping harassment wasn’t actually helping free speech, it had instead seen its “open policies stifling free expression; people avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety”.

A survey of over 15,000 Redditors found that many of them felt uncomfortable contributing because of the negative responses they receive on the site.

They had even refrained from recommending the site to others because of those responses, they said, despite using it themselves. “The number one reason redditors do not recommend the site—even though they use it themselves—is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content,” Reddit said.

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