Another day, another internet giant belatedly deciding to apply its own policies in the face of a tragedy.
Following the tragic Christchurch terrorist attack in New Zealand that left 49 people dead and scores more injured, and the subsequent sharing online of a livestream from the killer, Reddit has banned two subreddits that it now says glorified or celebrated violence.
The first, r/watchpeopledie, was pretty much exactly what it sounds like — a place where people shared and commented on grisly videos of real deaths. The second, r/gore, was less specific in its death requirements but also contained violent video and images.
Attempting to visit either page, as of the afternoon of March 15, brings users to a notice from Reddit stating the reasoning behind the ban.
“This subreddit has been banned for violations of our Content Policy,” reads the message, “specifically our policy against glorifying or encouraging violence.”
Notably, r/watchpeopledie featured video of the Christchurch shooter’s livestream of the massacre. Before it was banned, visitors to the subbreddit were greeted with a warning letting them know that this was no ordinary corner of the internet.
“Are you sure you want to view this community,” asked a cover page archived by the Wayback Machine. “This community is quarantined[.] It is dedicated to shocking or highly offensive content. Are you certain you want to continue?”
What responsibility do we want these companies to have? On Reddit, one of the most popular sites on the Internet, people have been narrating the video on a forum called “watchpeopledie.” After more than an hour, this was posted: pic.twitter.com/C8nmt7CZgh
— Drew Harwell (@drewharwell) March 15, 2019
Quarantined subreddits, according to Reddit, “generate no revenue, do not appear in non-subscription-based feeds (eg Popular), and are not included in search or recommendations.”
Reddit further explains that it quarantines subreddits that “while not prohibited, average redditors may nevertheless find highly offensive or upsetting.”
The company’s policy regarding violent content suggests that, under Reddit’s own rules, r/watchpeopledie should probably have been banned long ago.
“Do not post content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise, do not post content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals,” reads the policy in part.
Which, yeah, seems like Reddit is taking the path blazed by fellow Silicon Valley juggernauts: wait until something goes terribly wrong, and then react in a half-assed manner. Somehow, we’re not surprised.