Reddit is taking bullying and harassment on its website more seriously.
According to the new policy, Reddit defines behavior in violation of these rules as “anything that works to shut someone out of the conversation through intimidation or abuse, online or off.” This is a huge update from the previous rules that defined bullying and harassment as putting an individual in “fear of their real life safety” or so that a user “no longer feels that it’s safe to post online.” In the announcement, the company points out the inadequacy of a policy that set a “high bar of users fearing for their real-world safety to qualify.”
Reddit also says that bullying and harassment do not have to be “continued” or “systemic” to qualify under its new policy.
“Being annoying, downvoting, or disagreeing with someone, even strongly, is not harassment,” states the site’s new policy. “However, menacing someone, directing abuse at a person or group, following them around the site, encouraging others to do any of these actions, or otherwise behaving in a way that would discourage a reasonable person from participating on Reddit crosses the line.”
These new rules don’t just apply to individual users, either. Communities, known as subreddits, will have to adhere to these policies too.
In addition, Reddit will no longer require that the victim of bullying and harassment report the offending user or subreddit. The company will now investigate reports from bystanders too. (It’s pretty incredible that it wasn’t already looking into third-party reports of harassment.) Machine-learning tools will also be deployed to help sort urgent reports.
Reddit also banned a number of subreddits in the wake of these changes, most notably r/Braincels. The subreddit was home to a large online community of so-called involuntary celibates or “incels.” The incel movement, with its violent misogynistic rhetoric, is no stranger to being from Reddit or other online platforms. Most recently the U.S. military issued a warning regarding from incels planning to target the upcoming film, .
With the broadening of any rules comes some grey area. The post was inundated with comments from users seeking clarifications on what exactly classifies as harassment. One user asked whether this was a one strike policy (according to Reddit’s response, the company will look at the “severity of the infraction” and whether the person is usually a “good user”). Others wondered if subreddits dedicated to calling out bad behavior from the site’s users would fall under these rules.
The new policy looks to be a step in the right direction, though.
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