Things have getting heated on Reddit after users outed moderators in the r/technology subreddit deleting posts containing words such as “Tesla”, “Anonymous,” “Obama,” “Congress,” “National Security Agency” and “Snowden”.
Among the first people to discover what was happening was a user called Creq, who figured out the list of banned words by a process of trial and error and noted that headlines containing the words had been disappearing as far back as eight months ago.
The outrage caused by the discovery has led to the subreddit being downgraded so that it no longer appears on Reddit’s homepage. This is not the first subreddit to be downgraded — r/politics and r/atheism were removed from the site’s homepage last year in favour of subjects like books, television, earthporn and the always popular /r/gifs and /r/explainlikeimfive after being flooded with bad posts.
While many users accused the sections moderators, all of whom are unpaid volunteers, of censorship it now appears likely that they simply were’t up to the job.
Rather than dealing with stories as they came in, it seems the moderators had simply put a filter in place that automatically deleted headlines with any of the more than 20 popular words in them.
According to agentlame, a former moderator on the thread, this may have also had something to with an attitude on inherent laziness among the other mods. “The top mods ever did anything,” he writes. “They didn’t reply to mod mail, they didn’t really talk much in the mod sub, there was no IRC… nothing”.
The shut down of r/politics also seems to have had an effect:
After /r/politics was removed as a default we started to notice more and more political posts that didn’t have too much to do with technology. That had always been a bit of an issue, but it seemed to be growing. Then Snowden hit. A 100% proper technology topic that was also political. We allowed all the posts but as the story kept going we were getting mass spammed with any story about the NSA. Even if they had nothing to do with technology.
For its part, Reddit says the guidelines it provides its moderators with are clear and that it’s up to them to ensure that they’re enforced effectively.
“We decided to remove /r/technology from the default list because the moderation team lost focus of what they were there to do: moderate effectively,” the site’s director of communications Victoria Taylor told the BBC.
“We’re giving them time to see if we feel they can work together to resolve the issue.
“We might consider adding them back in the future if they can show us and the community that they can overcome these issues.”