COVID-19 disinformation and conspiracy theories continue to spread on Reddit, prompting popular subreddits to protest and call upon the platform to better monitor the factually incorrect posts.
“It is clear that even after promising to tackle the problem of misinformation on this site, nothing of substance has been done aside from quarantining a medium sized subreddit, which barely reduces traffic and does little to stop misinformation,” N8theGr8 wrote, according to VICE. Dozens of popular subreddits, including r/awww, r/showerthoughts and r/pics, co-signed in solidarity, along with over 450 site moderators.
The thread in question is titled, “We call upon Reddit to take action against the rampant Coronavirus misinformation on their website,” and posted in r/vaxxhappened, where users share anti-vaxxer memes. “We could have been better off months ago, but disinformation and lies have been allowed to spread readily through inaction and malice, and have dragged this on at the cost of lives,” the post said. “This volume of blatant misinformation is problematic and dangerous.”
“There can be no room for leniency when people are dying as a result of misinformation on this platform. Reddit as a global platform needs to take responsibility here,” it continued. “We are calling on the admins to take ownership of their website, and remove dangerous medical disinformation that is endangering lives and contributing to the existence of this ongoing pandemic.” The post has since been cross posted to dozens of subreddits, and upvoted over 160 thousand times.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has since taken to r/announcements to address the rise of disinformation on the site, though he did not acknowledge the aforementioned post specifically. “We appreciate that not everyone agrees with the current approach to getting us all through the pandemic, and some are still wary of vaccinations,” Huffman wrote.
“Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy. Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate. This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus. This includes conversations that criticize those that disagree with the majority opinion. This includes protests that criticize or object to our decisions on which communities to ban from the platform.”
“Given the rapid state of change, we believe it is best to enable communities to engage in debate and dissent, and for us to link to the CDC wherever appropriate. While we believe the CDC is the best and most up to date source of information regarding COVID-19, disagreeing with them is not against our policies,” he continued, reiterating that “manipulating or cheating Reddit to amplify any particular viewpoint” is against their policies, and they will continue to take action against those who do violate the rules. Some examples he included were promoting fake vaccine cards and/or consuming bleach.
“We will continue to use our quarantine tool to link to authoritative sources and warn people they may encounter unsound advice,” he concluded. “We humbly ask and encourage everyone to report content that may violate our policies.”