Note (3.31PM ET): Please see the end of this post for an important update and correction to this post.
Last week a Reason.com reader and a Reddit user brought our attention to the fact that Reason.com—this very site—has been banned from the Politics "subreddit" at Reddit.com. The full comment thread on the matter can be read here.
Please note that our material is not banned from the overall site, but from one specific subgroup. Indeed, our material shows up frequently on various parts of Reddit, particularly the Libertarian subreddit.
Each subreddit is moderated by a group of people that sets rules and enforces them in collaboration with each other and users. The particular moderator who banned us at /r/Politics [see correction at end of post] goes by the handle TheRedditPope and, in a back and forth with commenters who charged him with ideological bias, gives his reasons here:
There's lots of reasons to remove that domain [Reason.com] and they have noting to do with its ideological affiliation. You can believe whatever you want. We ban domains for spam regardless of their ideology. Your biased criticisms are not going to change that. We would ban HuffPo if they tried the same shit as Reason.com, but they won't because they don't have to….
So what's the "shit" we've been trying to get away with? It's unclear from the discussion thread but it appears that we stand accused of passing off blogspam—"content from websites who take all or the majority of an article from another website and reposts that content to get the traffic and collect the ad revenue"—as our own work. That is clearly inaccurate.
As is any suggestion that Reason authors are submitting our links in violation of the site's protocols on spam (which in this context means only submitting stuff you yourself have written). About a year ago, we did in fact get in trouble for having some of our staffers (including me) submit Reason links to the site. As I explained back then on a Reddit thread and in an article at Poynter.org, that was due to ignorance of proper "Reddiquette" on our part. We stopped the offending practice and have not resumed it or anything like it. In fact, I've asked Reason staffers to never submit Reason articles, blog posts, or videos to Reddit to avoid any possible problems. The ban—which unlike the current one was site-wide—was quickly lifted after friendly interaction with Erik Martin, one of the site's head honchos.
So I'm left wondering exactly what we did to incur the wrath of TheRedditPope. Reddit penalizes sites and users that scrape articles from original sources, try to game the system by submitting only material in which they have an publishing interest, and don't add much information or analysis. As several of the commenters in the thread note, Reason.com is the biggest libertarian news site on the web and whether folks agree or not with our take on a given topic, they can't seriously accuse us of ripping off other sites or not shooting our mouths off with our own particular POVs on any given topics.
Consider the attempted post that brought the ban to our attention. The user who contacted us had apparently tried to submit this story: "Do-Nothing Congress? Americans Think Congress Passes Too Many Laws, Wrong Kinds of Legislation." Click on the link and you'll be taken to an extended analysis of information drawn from the latest Reason-Rupe Poll, an original quarterly survey of American voters that has garnered praise from all over the political spectrum and has been cited in all sorts of mainstream and alternative outlets. If the Reason poll—which is designed by Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this site, and is executed in the field by the same group that conducts Pew Research—and that post in particular don't meet the threshold of original content that is news-rich and original, then nothing does.
I am a huge admirer of Reddit, even in the wake of recent revelations about the /r/Politics ban. As I wrote last year in a Reddit thread,
Reddit is one of those rare sites that actually delivers on the potential of the Internet and Web to create a new way of creating community and distributing news, information, and culture that simply couldn't exist in the past. Like wildly different sites ranging from slashdot to Arts & Letters Daily to Talking Points Memo to the late, lamented Suck, Reddit is precisely one of the reasons why cyberspace (or whatever you call it) continues to excite us and make plain old meatspace a little more tolerable.
As a libertarian, I believe that Reddit.com is free to create and enforce whatever rules it wants for its site and its subreddits. It can even enforce them arbitrarily or incorrectly. Over there, it's Reddit's world and we're just passing through.
By the same token -and speaking as Reddit user—arbitrary, capricious, and opaque rules are generally bad ideas. It would be nice to be given clearer reasons for why Reason.com is being banned from a subreddit that is explicitly devoted to topics and perspectives that Reason is being kicked out the door for no good reason. If it involves any sort of practice of action for which we are responsible, I would be happy to figure out a way to address such conflicts. Or to live with the ex cathedra statements issued by TheRedditPope.
Update: TheRedditPope contacted me via email with several important corrections regarding the banning of Reason.com at the Politics subreddit.
Here's the meat of what he said:
I don't believe it is common practice for journalists to run stories without contacting both sides. If your goal is to get reason.com unbanned from r/Politics then you are not doing the website you are affiliated with any favors.
I, personally, TheRedditPope did not ban reason.com as your article states. I just talked with some folks on /r/libertarian about why the mods [moderators] decided to ban the site.
We are considering unbanning some or all of Reason.com but I personally would like to see some good faith on your end and for that story to be corrected.
I apologize for writing that TheRedditPope was responsible for the banning of Reason.com at the Politics subreddit. That is plainly in error.
Reason.com was banned because that domain has a consistent, severe blogspam problem….The reason ban was a good ol' fashioned, simple majority mod vote.
The same moderator goes on to note that he is "a huge proponent of banning Alternet," the progressive site that does in fact scrape sites and regularly reposts whole articles without licensing the content, and
We've got big things coming in the near future in the way of domain bans. I think everyone will be happy, or pissed off. Who knows, but it'll clean the sub up a great deal.
Again, I regret the mistake regarding TheRedditPope's role in the banning of Reason.com. And I look forward to more discussion with the moderators who did make that decision.