Over on Gizmodo, Bryan Menegus has a lengthy new piece about the slow decline of Reddit. In addition to speaking to a Reddit spokesperson, Menegus also interviewed five high-ranking volunteer moderators of some of Reddit’s biggest communities. And his ultimate conclusion is that a subreddit called r/The_Donald—the “premier online meeting place for Trump supporters”—is essentially holding the rest of the site hostage. According to Menegus, “Its members spread coded hate speech, openly antagonize other Redditors, and break the site’s most basic rules with impunity while moderators feel the brunt of the abuse.” And because Reddit leadership has failed to adequately address the problem, the site is on its way to becoming unusable.
The article dives into the nitty-gritty details of The_Donald subreddit, trying to illuminate the site’s byzantine structure in the process. And it digs up stories of abuse, doxxing, and other sorts of harassment and hate speech that have mostly gone unchecked. According to the article:
One possible explanation for Reddit’s inaction is money. The_Donald is, by Reddit’s own admission, “one of our most popular subreddits and most active subreddits,” and like almost every community on the site, sponsored ads appear alongside user posts. The content of most posts on The_Donald should raise deep concerns with most advertisers paying for space on Reddit, if their ad ends up on The_Donald, regardless of how popular or active the page is. (At the time of this writing, Uber ads are appearing on The_Donald.)
More likely it comes down to fallout and optics. After the ban of r/FatPeopleHate Reddit became near-unusable. The displaced users, with nothing left to lose, stirred up as much trouble as they could, and likely the Reddit admins fear a repeat. “Trying to take action against 4 million unique subreddit visitors (300,000 subscribers) will be impossible,” an r/politics moderator told Gizmodo. “Even if only 1% of their total visitors are a problem, that leaves 40,000 accounts to be handled. Glance around the community, it is much more than 1%”
These sort of stories pop up about all networks occasionally—Facebook and Twitter have been dying for years—but it’s impossible to ignore that one of the internet’s largest communities has a very big problem on its hands. You can read the full piece on Gizmodo.
[Note: Gizmodo, like The A.V. Club, is owned by Univision Communications.]