For long, Reddit, an online community where users can post links, ask questions and discus virtually any topic under the sun, has been a place where free speech reigns, leaving the outcomes in the hands of the community. The networking website, identifying that free speech can also lead to harassment, has introduced a feature that effectively allows users to silence haters.
Reddit users have always had the option to block other users who were trolling, spamming or harassing them, but so far the feature applied only to private messages. "We've recently updated its behaviour to apply more broadly: you can now block users that reply to you in comment replies as well," Reddit admin u/KeyserSosa said in an announcement.
Typically, when users participate in discussions on Reddit, they generate threads, which lead the conversation in different directions. Redditors (Reddit users) can reply on these threads and users are notified every time somebody replies to their previous comment. With the new and improved "block user" feature, users will not be notified when the person harassing or trolling them replies. The troll will also not be notified when a user blocks them. Much like "muting" a user on Twitter, "block user" doesn't stop the user from replying on the thread.
"Do not feed the trolls" has always been the mantra when it comes to combating online harassment and Reddit believes that by simply ignoring them and discouraging hateful or provocative speech, the quality of the discussions on the website can be improved, the New York Times reported.
Reddit updated its content policy in August last year and consequently banned several offencive subreddits — a place where users can talk and share information about a particular and the NYT, however, points out these steps taken by Reddit could be in order to step into the arena shared by Facebook and Twitter. This not only gives Reddit a more diverse user base, but also opens up revenue streams.
That doesn't mean Reddit can be considered 'mostly harmless' at the moment. Reddit helped fuel The Fappening, a scandal where the iCloud accounts of several celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, were hacked and their nude photos were published online. Anish Das, a web entrepreneur who has worked on blogging platforms like Livejournal, in an interview with the NYT, compared the power of a Reddit post to that of a tweet: "It can travel very long distances," he said.
In the comments section of the announcement, u/KeyserSosa clarified that community moderators as well as admins will be able to see the content that has been blocked by users, with the moderators' power being restricted to the subreddits they moderate.
KeyserSosa also added that the system will be reviewed over time and suitable changes will be made as required. The response to this move from the Reddit community has been positive. u/KeyserSosa also said that similar features aimed at improving user experience will be introduced soon.