Reddit sees egregrious censorship after Orlando massacre

The popular news site Reddit – the self-proclaimed front page of the internet – played host to a series of bizarre and arbitrary wipeouts in the wake of the Orlando shooting, now confirmed as the worst in the nation’s history. Reddit is usually among the first places one can find breaking news stories as they unfold – not so this Sunday, as /r/news, the ‘subreddit’ or messageboard for posting news related stories, went dark.

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The moderators of /r/news initially attempted to prevent the story from being posted and deleted it multiple times, resulting in the surprise of many users when a repost was finally allowed to remain on the front page. However, they then engaged in a mass removal of comments of all kinds – and not just those critical of Islam or Muslims. Setting aside the entirely legitimate criticism of Islamic ideology in circumstances such as these, the censorship even included deleting the posts of users posting information desperately seeking blood donations. The user below can be seen frantically posting the same information a number of times, begging for people to sign up and donate blood.

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A good amount of the censoring seems to have come at the hand of a user known as suspiciousspecialist, who told a user to ‘kill himself’ after deleting multiple comments asking for people to step forward and donate blood to prevent deaths.

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Among the deleted comments was this one, which is of a man seeking confirmation as to the safety of his friend, who may have been at the club in question.

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The censorship is similar to that practiced by the moderators at /r/news and /r/worldnews after the Cologne Sex Attacks on New Year’s, during which again, the comment sections of both subreddits became veritable graveyards. Many redditors have shown their overt displeasure at such censorship, and this is currently the top post on /r/jokes

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Many of the deleted comments were extremely popular, with hundreds or even over a thousand upvotes. In some cases, almost all (over 90%) of comments made were deleted, as can be seen here.

The censoring of breaking news stories relating to Islamism and Islamic terrorism is something the internet is very used to. The fact that Reddit moderators attempted to blackout this story should be no surprise as after all, it is identical to their behavior following the events of Cologne. The fact that this behavior remains routine amongst the moderation team implies that many more less-well publicized incidents with Muslim perpetrators are indeed successfully censored.

While Reddit does have a stated goal to function as a free speech platform, it is no surprise that this policy ends when it comes to Islam and Muslims; it is in line with practices pushed by other social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Ironically, the only subreddit which was successfully able to post news stories relating to the Orlando massacre was /r/the_donald, which is the main subreddit supporting Donald Trump in his run for the presidency. The moderation team of /r/news did eventually come out with a statement on the incident of mass censorship.

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The post is currently sitting at an unspecified number of downvotes, but knowing the Reddit community’s distaste for censorship, and given the popularity of posts critical of the moderation team, it is likely in the negative thousands. What’s noteworthy about this statement is that it deliberately conflates criticism of Islam and Islamism with hate speech, stating “there is still a lot of hate speech prevalent”, implying that the mass deletion of comments will continue. The social media crackdown on criticism of Islam appears to be as strong as ever.

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