Research:Online Community Conduct Policies/Reddit

Reddit is a forum-style community of contributors who share interesting posts and memes, discuss current events and politics, and post breaking news stories.  It was founded in 2005, and purchased by the magazine publisher Conde Nast in 2006. Reddit is moderated by volunteers, and has a small paid staff based in San Francisco. Content is organized into “subreddits” on specific topics, and subreddits can have their own content and behavioural guidelines.

Conduct policies


See also: Reddit's Content Policy, User Agreement, and Reddiquette,

Reddit defines its behavioural policy as “reddiquette”. It consists of a list of desired behaviours (“please do”) and proscribed actions (“please don’t”).  Some of these are quite broad; for instance, “please don’t engage in illegal activity” or “please don’t be (intentionally) rude”.  Others, like their prohibition on publishing personal information, go into detail about what constitutes a violation. Reddit’s Terms of Use, called the Reddit User Agreement, prohibits certain other behaviours, mostly concerning copyrighted material and limitations on the type of content that may be posted.  Its content policy goes into greater detail on the specifics of banned content.

History of the policy


Reddit began using volunteer moderation in January 2008, at the same time as allowing users to first create their own subreddits.[1] Reddit’s conduct guidance started as a loose collection of undesirable behaviours,[2] with specific rules and enforcement left to the volunteer moderators of the subreddits. In the early 2010s, many subreddits were criticized publicly for offensive, sexist, and/or overtly racist content.  Some of the controversy around GamerGate incidents was centered around Reddit, where it was alleged that subreddits were being used for coordination of harassment.  

Reddit experienced a “revolt” of its volunteer moderators in the late spring of 2015, after the controversial termination of an employee with strong ties to the volunteer moderators. In the spring and summer of 2015, Reddit significantly revamped its policies to emphatically restrict certain behaviours.[3]  Some of the autonomy of subreddit moderators was removed, and the site reserved the right to “quarantine” (remove from public view) subreddits that it feels have content that violates the new standards.  This contributed to another “revolt” of some volunteers, with some subreddits removed from public view by their moderators.[4]

How it is enforced


Moderation in subreddits is done by the specific moderators of that subreddit. As the number of subreddits now number in hundreds of thousands and each subreddit has at least one moderator/creator, there are a similar number of moderators (though many are inactive).[5] Active subreddits often have more than a single moderator. Moderation tools available to "mods" are a mix of user-created scripts and tools, and company-supplied software. Moderators also have the ability to make their subreddit "private" - allowing only subscribed registered accounts to access its content. Moderators can also escalate issues to Reddit's ModSupport board, where staff and experienced moderators assist.

Moderators have the power to ban accounts from their subreddit for a variety of problems, including inappropriate content, problem usernames, and disruptive behaviour. However, what constitutes a bannable violation, outside of the prohibitions listed in Reddit's User Agreement and Content Policy, is left up to the individual moderator and subreddit community. This leads to a wide variety of behavioral standards and little consistency in limits and expectations of user behavior across the site.[6] It has also resulted in a huge gap in content policies between subreddits, with some, like the notorious white supremacy boards, hosting extremely controversial content and discussion, while others are proactively moderated to quash even borderline conduct.

Analysis of policy: strengths and weaknesses







  1. Matias, J. Nathan (2015-07-09). "What Just Happened on Reddit? Understanding The Moderator Blackout". Social Media Collective. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  2. "reddiquette - (2013 revision)". Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  3. "Content Policy Update • /r/announcements". reddit. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  4. "Reddit in revolt over anti-harrassment policy enforcement (Wired UK)". Wired UK. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  5. Matias, J. Nathan (2015-06-16). "Recognizing the Work of Reddit’s Moderators: Summer Research Project". Social Media Collective. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  6. Chen, Adrian (2015-07-21). "When the Internet’s ‘Moderators’ Are Anything But". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-05-23.