Reddit has been among the several social media platforms to learn an important lesson this year about online harassment: It's rampant, and it makes people want to avoid websites where they're most likely to be targeted.
On Thursday, the company announced the implementation of a new anti-harassment policy aimed at shutting down hate speech and making Reddit safer for a greater number of users -- a major step in addressing the sorts of violence and harassment that have become prevalent on the site.
The new policy is quite a departure from the status quo at Reddit, where users are able to post to communities (known as "subreddits") with essentially no intervention from the company, and with rules that vary from group to group. The result has been spaces where vitriol can grow and spread -- which is exactly what Reddit hopes to curb with its new policy.
Under the new anti-harassment measure, the company will have a place in removing harmful content, the New York Times reports:
From Thursday on, users who view or experience harassment on the service will be able to e-mail Reddit employees working as moderators who have the ability to remove content and ban offenders from the site. In the policy update, Reddit defines harassment as “continued actions” that would make someone “conclude that Reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas.” [...]
What Reddit is not doing, however, is actively policing its communities. Instead, the company will rely on users to report bad actors in the community. That may not assuage concerns that the company itself is doing enough to eliminate hate speech and harassment on the platform.
Similar concerns were raised earlier this year, when the company announced plans to remove copyrighted images upon request in an effort to reduce the prevalence of "revenge porn" on the site. The reasoning behind each of the changes has been rather transparent: Reddit wants to grow, and it can't do that when people don't want to use a site rife with hate speech. According to the Times, the company recently conducted a survey to determine why Reddit users choose not to recommend the site to others, and found that the number one reason was "to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content."
Still, Reddit's new policies are better than nothing. They could make the Internet a slightly friendlier place for many, many people -- especially those for whom vocal minorities reserve the utmost hostility.