August 30, 2013
Screenshot from Reddit.com
RT.com has been banned on Reddit’s /r/news section, with moderators accusing it of spamming. Puzzled with absurd allegations, RT views the sanctions as an act of censorship with many redditors expressing the same concern.
The announcement of the ban appeared on Reddit at around 12:30 GMT on Thursday, and was soon followed by another message, saying that “brigading the thread, downvoting, and crying aren’t going to change it, sorry.”
When some of the users reacting to the message asked to be provided with a screenshot of the thread(s) where RT.com made the alleged violation, moderator Douglas MacArthur replied: “sorry, no, internal.”
The ban provoked a heated debate on the website, with one user, datums, writing that it was“unacceptable to ban a major news source without presenting evidence against them.”
“It is particularly worrisome that this particular outlet offers a perspective that lacks the pro-American bias of major US outlets. RT employs many excellent journalists, and their credibility cannot be called into question any more than The New York Times or CNN,” datums said.
Meanwhile, user Alttoon said that the ban had nothing to do with freedom of information, but was instead“pure censorship at best.”
The users pointed out that if RT.com was really caught spamming, then it would be banned from the whole website site by the Reddit’s admins, but not only from its /r/news section.
Even Reddit users who frequently disagree with RT’s stance on various issues spoke out against the ban, stressing that it was not the moderators but the audience who should decide what news articles to read.
“Propaganda machine or not, a news organization should not be banned from a news subreddit,” user MisterGrieves wrote. “ESPECIALLY if one of the reasons is that they post a lot of their stories here. That is the purpose of this subreddit. Banning a news source is censorship and the mod behavior is appalling.”
“The reader will decide if they want to read them or not but removing that option from the reader is wrong,” he added.
Some users also found the timing of the sanctions against RT.com quite suspicious as it coincided with escalation of events around Syria, with the US being on the brink of invading the country.
“It certainly seems shady, that exactly in the times when the US is pitted in an interests war with Russia, which may indeed turn into a very real war soon enough, they’d decide to act out against spam from RT,”user maraSara said.
User Let_them_eat_slogans stressed that sanctions against RT, backed by “zero evidence of wrongdoing,” set “a fantastic precedent” and found support among the other redditors.
After two hours of heated discussion, Douglas MacArthur, the moderator, referred to “basic metrics that are used on reddit spammers all the time both by subreddit moderators and reddit staff.”
“One example is plain domain frequency. The rule-of-thumb is 10%. If you submit a lot, and the proportion coming from a certain domain is way higher than that, you’re probably a spammer. If there’s a lot of users doing that a lot for one domain, you should investigate further to see if it’s people working for that domain,” MacArthur said.
He did not elaborate, however, whether any such investigation was carried out before putting the ban into effect.
The moderator refused to provide proof of alleged violations by RT.com, saying it would disclose the means used by Reddit to detect and tackle spammers and therefore help future perpetrators.
Some three hours after the initial announcement, as more comments of the kind were posted, the Reddit moderator wrote: “OK, we’re going to have a vote on whether or not to ban RT. To vote, please click here.” However, clicking on the link led to an empty website, Zombo.com.
But the joke wasn’t welcomed by the users, who blamed the moderator for being “unprofessional.”
“Why offer a vote on the subject just to direct to a dumb 90’s troll website? You’re just fanning the flames,” user ActionFilmsFan1995 wrote.
The sanctions against RT.com and the way the moderator responded to the complaints prompted some readers to quit the /r/news section subreddit.
While the other redditors demanded actions against Douglas MacArthur, like user MikeOracle, who suggested “we need a new moderator, stat.”
RT’s leading web analyst, Aleksey Naumov, denied there were any grounds for the moderator’s spamming accusations.
“Over the last two years, RT’s traffic has increased by four or five times,” Naumov said. “Quite naturally that during this period the number of submissions of our materials to Reddit.com as well as the number of referrals from Reddit to our website has increased. It’s not difficult to check that it’s not the same, but different people, who submit our stories to Reddit.”
RT asked MacArthur and Reddit’s press service for details regarding the ban imposed on RT.com links.
Reddit’s press office replied that they were not consulted by subreddits about their decisions.
“To clarify, it is the prerogative of each individual subreddit’s moderators to allow or ban domains from being submitted to their subreddits,” Victoria Taylor, of Reddit’s press service, said. “As we are not moderators of /r/news, we were not involved or consulted on this decision. You would need to appeal to the moderators of /r/news about their decision and address their concerns individually.”
RT has received no reply from MacArthur.
Reddit works by allowing users to submit links from around the Internet, which other users then vote on.