Media efforts to combat hate is pressuring user-based platforms like Reddit and MeWe to follow suit, and rightly so.
Since the 18th century we have used boycotting as a political weapon for good. In 1791 some 300,000 people abstained from buying any goods produced by slaves in the West Indies, demonstrating for the first time the undeniable influence of consumer action in bringing about tangible change. Today, with social media being a modern mainstay of individual expression, people are employing the same tactics in an effort to force huge platforms like Facebook and Twitter to purge anti-hate/racist content, and to become more inclusive and safer for years to come.
Dubbed the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign, an ensemble of major companies has joined a shrewd citizen led movement to hit Facebook where it really hurts: its ad revenue. Comprised of big players who genuinely want to affect change, and no doubt those who’s chief concern is cause marketing or ‘bluewashing’, upward of 900 companies including Microsoft, Verizon Communications, Adidas, Ford, and Coca-Cola have suspended all advertising on Facebook for July – leading to a reported $7bn loss of revenue for chief exec Mark Zuckerberg.
Brought about by advocacy groups Free Press, Common Sense, Colour of Change, and the Anti-Defamation League, a now global frontier is demanding that the chief social media sites finally take a moral stance against derogatory content, or face months of negative PR, market crashes, and loss of consumer trust. The likes of YouTube and SnapChat has already started curating content more carefully and banning accounts, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have plucked episodes containing blackface scenes or lazy racial stereotypes from their respective libraries.
Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the third richest person in the world https://t.co/6aax9oHfmJ
— Bloomberg (@business) June 27, 2020
How is this impacting user run platforms?
While juggernauts Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are top of the agenda for campaigners and affiliate companies, user run platforms like Reddit and MeWe shouldn’t be exempt from the STHP campaign, and doubters need to understand why.
As Reddit CEO Steve Huffman is often keen to point out, political conversations ‘have always been a huge part’ of the platform’s makeup,’ and with Donald Trump in the Whitehouse, heated debates are certainly there to be had. However, Reddit’s lax approach to mods and emphasis on ‘authentic conversation’ has previously led to the spread of misinformation, hateful tirades, and, worst of all, attempts to incite violence.
External pressure is nothing new for Reddit, but amidst the biggest civil rights issue of the decade, and with internal pressure coming from ex-honcho Ellen Pao – who scolded Huffman for ‘amplifying’ racism last month – inaction simply wasn’t going to cut it this time.
Reddit has reacted by banning 2,000 subreddit groups and users, and has amended its content policy to explicitly rule against the mocking of racial minorities, individuals with disabilities, and rape victims. A quick peruse at the list of recent exiles shows a whole bunch of ‘dark humour’ and alt-right accounts. Undoubtedly Reddit’s boldest move (and biggest victory) was to finally axe pro-Trump subreddit The_Donald after years of tip toeing around its constant breach of the guidelines regarding harassment campaigns and racist content.
This, coupled with the indefinite suspension of Trump’s Twitch channel, seems to have sent a torrent of Trump supporters over to an emerging app you probably hadn’t heard of: Parler. Thinly veiled as an ‘unbiased’ alternative to Twitter for political discourse, we’re seeing the rise of yet another free-for-all platform likely to house the type of distasteful content just scrapped from Reddit. Community guidelines are in place to deter people from spreading hate and abuse, but like Reddit’s early days the repercussions of breaking them appear to be non-existent. The only saving grace in that regard, is that Parler doesn’t, and probably never will have anywhere near the same visibility as Reddit.