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William Shatner questions Reddit's permissive culture

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#1 +Frank B.

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:15

William Shatner questions Reddit's permissive culture, suggests 'downvoting' won't deter hate

Some celebrities leave Reddit shortly after they collect easy publicity, but Star Trek'sWilliam Shatner isn't afraid to stick around and ruffle some feathers. An active user on the site since his first "Ask Me Anything" session in January, Shatner has issued some stern comments about the site's tolerance of hateful or racist users, writing that he is "appalled by some of the immature, horrifically racist, sexist, homophobic, ethnic, etc... posts that are just ignored here." Shatner questions Reddit's hands-off approach, writing that "the fact that someone could come here, debase and degrade people based on race, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference because 'they have a right' to do so without worry of any kind of moderation is sending the wrong message."

That attitude may seem to fly in the face of free speech — a value Reddit (mostly) supports — but Shatner's unimpressed when it comes to hate speech. In response to a comment goading him to become president of the United States ("because apparently you know best," the commenter wrote), Shatner replied: "first of all, I'm Canadian. Second of all Reddit is worldwide. So 'First Amendment' means nothing online."

While it's not the first time Reddit's model has been criticized, Shatner's comments highlight the site's ongoing struggle to gain mainstream credibility while embracing offensive or undesirable content. Shatner wrote that "Reddit has been the first 'mainstream' site that I have been to that actually appears to allow racists and other hate mongers to group, congregate, incite and spread their hatred." While some users noted Reddit's voting system, which allows users to promote or suppress content to their liking, Shatner was unconvinced about its efficacy: "you obviously agree with me that there are 'shameful comments' on Reddit that users can downvote and hide," he writes in a response to another user, "but they are still here at the end of the day as are the accounts that make them. Do you believe that the folks who don these cyber masks to post hatred will stop making them because they get downvoted?"

Reddit only has a few official rules, including no spam, no personal information, no cheating the system, and no suggestive or sexual content featuring minors. The site has a much broader set of values, called Reddiquette, that consists of suggestions about how to behave -- but it's completely up to individual community moderators to create and enforce rules. Shatner, perhaps like many others who stumble on the site, doesn't seem to appreciate the difference between Reddiquette and the community's official rules. "All I am asking is why there are rules if they are not enforced," Shatner writes. "If censoring or disabling accounts is not an outcome of breaking the rules, then what exactly is?" (Of course, users do get banned from the site and from individual subreddits, but those decisions are often left to volunteer community moderators with nearly-unlimited power.) "I do not pretend to know where the managers of Reddit wish to go with this site," Shatner writes, "but embracing that kind of culture I feel is counterproductive to where this world is heading."

As a member of polite society, Shatner may not fully understand the people he's dealing with -- but that doesn't mean he can't change hearts and minds. The "ShitRedditSays" (SRS) community — one of the site's most controversial subreddits, often providing a running satirical commentary on Reddit's culture — honored Shatner by placing his face on its banner. In response, Shatner asked a Reddit user to act as a digital courier: "could I ask that you send a message over to whomever runs SRS? I would like the banner removed. I do not feel it's appropriate and I am not a member there." The banner was removed shortly after Shatner's request.


Source: The Verge


#2 Simon-

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:32

Harsh but true

#3 n_K

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:37

I'm part of a site with little in terms of rules, yeah some prats join but the majority of people on it are fine and keep it fine as is.
Out of all the hateful comments on sites, only a handful are genuine twits, the rest are all trolls or people looking for a reaction.

#4 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:06

I completely understand where he's coming from and—even though I frequently visit Reddit—I think he's right. Free speech should be protected until it infringes upon the rights of others. Racism, sexism, bigotry and other forms of hate speech should be shunned by society, not embraced under the guise of free speech. The upvote/downvote system only goes so far. The very fact that Reddit has rules - like prohibiting the posting of personal information - shows that it's not truly committed to free speech; it's being done to maintain the site's popularity. It's very similar to YouTube's incredibly relaxed rules on copyright infringement in the early days or MegaUpload's refusal to take down pirated content - it's a calculated decision in order to help the site grow.

#5 torrentthief

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:54

people who are offended by the opinions of others should go and live in a cave, they won't be offended by anyone then.

#6 TheLegendOfMart

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:00

There is a line and Reddit has crossed it, I am using the site less and less now as people seem to be posting disgusting pictures in the comments, such as decapitated pigs, children with diseases that has open sores, pics of near decapitations with chainsaws.

#7 Steve B.

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:23

There is a line and Reddit has crossed it, I am using the site less and less now as people seem to be posting disgusting pictures in the comments, such as decapitated pigs, children with diseases that has open sores, pics of near decapitations with chainsaws.


Dude what subs are you a part of, /r/gore? I don't see any of that.

#8 +Xinok

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:50

You Can't Please Everyone TM

#9 TheLegendOfMart

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 13:02

Dude what subs are you a part of, /r/gore? I don't see any of that.

Hell no, I am very squeemish I ventured into spaced***s out of curiosity and promptly lost the contents of my stomach.

People are posting pictures in the comments of front page articles, they seem to deal with it relatively quickly but there should be no chance of people posting things like that especially subreddits dedicated to such pics.

It wasn't so long ago they had borderline childporn subreddits (not that I looked of course, it was in the news) and they were forced to remove them.

#10 Steven P.

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 13:05

You Can't Please Everyone TM


It's a shame that people will still accuse sites like mine for being overly unfriendly when I know for a fact that a large percentage of it never gets seen by our active readership due to the awesome moderating team that we have. We try to make this a nice place to read through, but as Shatner points out, online anonymity makes it easy for people to act like ######, when they probably wouldn't dare it in a real life social setting. And if they dared it, then they aren't the types you want around you anyway.

#11 mudslag

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 13:24

I completely understand where he's coming from and—even though I frequently visit Reddit—I think he's right. Free speech should be protected until it infringes upon the rights of others. Racism, sexism, bigotry and other forms of hate speech should be shunned by society, not embraced under the guise of free speech. The upvote/downvote system only goes so far. The very fact that Reddit has rules - like prohibiting the posting of personal information - shows that it's not truly committed to free speech; it's being done to maintain the site's popularity. It's very similar to YouTube's incredibly relaxed rules on copyright infringement in the early days or MegaUpload's refusal to take down pirated content - it's a calculated decision in order to help the site grow.




There is a huge difference between someone posting someone elses personal information and someone taking "personal" offense to what is said. Posting personal information violates a person's right to privacy, that has nothing to do with free speech. Let's also not forget the FACT that "free speech" is a Right of protection from gov action, not private, to which Reddit is a part of.

#12 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 13:40

There is a huge difference between someone posting someone elses personal information and someone taking "personal" offense to what is said. Posting personal information violates a person's right to privacy, that has nothing to do with free speech. Let's also not forget the FACT that "free speech" is a Right of protection from gov action, not private, to which Reddit is a part of.


This isn't about taking personal offence to comments - we're talking about extreme racism, sexism, bigotry, hate speech, invasion of privacy and threats. Many countries have laws against that sort of behaviour, whether it's defined as hate speech or covered under harassment or assault legislation. It's interesting that you believe people have an inalienable right to privacy but that everything else is fair game.

#13 Knive Party

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 13:56

head to a specific subreddit, problem solved. the type of subreddit will dictate the type of lurker and user - aka, I hang out alot in the linux/webupd8/LAS/dota/purge/ subreddit, and the level of conversations are mature and insightful, no one is rude or a fanboy, people talk about what got shared, period. Reddit is a simple case of pick ya poison, don't have over realistic expectations all subreddit, some just attract the weirder and ruder people than most

#14 nw2001

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 14:06

head to a specific subreddit, problem solved. the type of subreddit will dictate the type of lurker and user - aka, I hang out alot in the linux/webupd8/LAS/dota/purge/ subreddit, and the level of conversations are mature and insightful, no one is rude or a fanboy, people talk about what got shared, period. Reddit is a simple case of pick ya poison, don't have over realistic expectations all subreddit, some just attract the weirder and ruder people than most

It's basically this.

Each subreddit is a clique, you hang out with certain cliques because they suit your fancy, Now each clique is self moderated because the site is basically way too big to moderate at a decent pace.

So what you get is mods who don't care if you act like a bigot. Now whether you like it or not, if you don't want to see such things, don't hang out with bigots. or if you do want to, Don't be offended by the rambling of a bunch of losers anyways.

edit:typo

#15 mudslag

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 14:08

This isn't about taking personal offence to comments - we're talking about extreme racism, sexism, bigotry, hate speech, invasion of privacy and threats. Many countries have laws against that sort of behaviour, whether it's defined as hate speech or covered under harassment or assault legislation. It's interesting that you believe people have an inalienable right to privacy but that everything else is fair game.



Those extreme comments are meant to offend, so yes we are talking about personal offense. Being offended is a personal issue and those comments ONLY have power when it's taken offensively. Ignoring people who make offensive statements is the most productive way to counter such people. Yes some countries have laws against such ways but we're talking about an Internet site, a vastly different aspect. And yes I do believe someone's privacy trumps being personally offended. You don't have a Right to NOT be offended.