Moderators on the link-sharing and discussion site Reddit deleted dozens of links and comments about immigrant gang violence and sexual assault in Cologne, Germany in an apparent attempt to clamp down on “vileness.”
Moderators on /r/worldnews, a subreddit with over 9.5million subscribers, repeatedly deleted links to stories about the recent New Year’s Eve attacks in Cologne, which saw over a thousand Arab and North African migrants engage in hundreds of acts of sexual assault and robbery.
Users made a dozen attempts to post links to the story on /r/worldnews, where they were promptly deleted by moderators. It was only when German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on the attacks that one news link was allowed to be posted. Comment from the German head of government made it impossible for the moderators to deny the story’s relevance to world news.
Even then, user comments underneath the news link faced mass censorship as well as a temporary lockdown due to what one moderator called “vile rule violating.” Go1dfish, a site which tracks censorship on Reddit and maintains a permanent copy of deleted comments, reveals that users had their comments deleted simply for asking why others had been deleted.
In another case, a user was censored for saying “I hope this story blows up. People need to see this.”
There have also been reports of censorship on /r/news, a default subreddit with over 7 million subscribers. Over 500 comments were found to be delete underneath a story on the Cologne attacks on /r/news.
Reddit is divided into user-created communities called ‘subreddits,’ where users share links and start discussion threads. Some of these subreddits have tens of millions of subscribers and receive more views per day than many news websites. Biased moderation on large subreddits can therefore have a significant impact on the flow of information.