After hundreds of moderators urged Reddit to ban COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, Reddit has taken a stance. The platform responded by upholding its decision to allow "debate and dissent" about the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccines.
"Dissent" Is Part of Reddit's Foundation
In an open letter on r/vaxxhappened, over 450 moderators from a range of subreddits called for the platform to ban any communities that contain misinformation about COVID-19. Moderators from some of the biggest subreddits are on board with the plea, including those from r/aww, r/lifeprotips, and r/dataisbeautiful.
The letter slams Reddit, saying the platform has done "nothing of substance" to combat misinformation about the pandemic. It calls on Reddit to ban any "subreddits which exist solely to spread medical disinformation and undermine efforts to combat the global pandemic." The post received over 169,000 upvotes.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman responded to the moderators' letter in a post on r/announcements. He noted that while Reddit backs the CDC's recommendations on vaccination and masking, it doesn't support the shutdown of subreddits that have opposing views.
"Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy," Huffman stated. "Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate. This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus."
Reddit won't take action on subreddits that engage in "debate and dissent" on the pandemic, but the platform will post links to the CDC wherever necessary. It will use its quarantine tool on subreddits that promote false information or may be offensive to some users, which requires users to click through a warning message to enter the community.
Huffman also noted that it will continue to take action on subreddits that pose an imminent threat. This includes communities that are "manipulating or cheating Reddit to amplify any particular viewpoint," engaging in fraud, encouraging harm, or breaking any of Reddit's other rules.
The moderators who penned the open letter, as well as the members of the r/vaxxhappened community, obviously aren't satisfied with Reddit's response. An ongoing thread on the subreddit criticizes the platform's decision not to ban COVID-19 misinformation.
Reddit Takes a Step Back
Is Reddit doing enough to combat misinformation? Other social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, have all been pretty strict about what is and isn't allowed in terms of COVID-19 misinformation.
Reddit's response to the open letter shows that it's taking more of a hands-off approach to the situation, leaving some wondering if this will breed more uncertainty and doubt.