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Reddit boss rejects crackdown on coronavirus misinformation, arguing in favour of ‘dissent’

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Steve Huffman, Reddit’s chief executive, has said that the site will not ban coronavirus misinformation because it values “dissent”.

The approach is a marked difference from other social sites, many of which have cracked down on posts that promote false information, such as misleading stories about vaccines.

While Mr Huffman said that Reddit would look to push its users towards authoritative information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it would not stop people from publishing posts that were in contravention of that same information.

Instead, it will allow people to engage in “open and authentic discussion and debate” on issues including coronavirus, he said.

“Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy. Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate,” Mr Huffman said in a post on the platform.

“This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus. This includes conversations that criticize those that disagree with the majority opinion. This includes protests that criticize or object to our decisions on which communities to ban from the platform.”

Unusually, Reddit locked that thread, meaning that users are not able to reply to it or voice their opinion directly.

Mr Huffman did not give any indication of what had prompted him to write the post. But it is probably a response to a viral post from the subreddit “Vaxxhappened”, which shares examples of anti-vaxxers.

That posts has the title “We call upon Reddit to take action against the rampant Coronavirus misinformation on their website” and has been upvoted some 180,000 times at the time of publication and has received support from those behind many of Reddit’s biggest forums, or subreddits.

It calls on Reddit to “take responsibility”, and asks that forums that exist only to spread misinformation on Reddit should be banned. “We are calling on the admins to take ownership of their website, and remove dangerous medical disinformation that is endangering lives and contributing to the existence of this ongoing pandemic,” it says.

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