Pokémon Go the creators Niantic recently proved slow in addressing widespread fears about the game that force players to be near other people in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, in a ripple from that, the game’s Reddit sub, r / pokemongo, has switched to ‘private’, in response to what they see as Reddit’s failure to adequately police the spread of Covid misinformation in response to the story.
In early August, Niantic made the inexplicable decision to recall the extended interaction distances for Pokestops and gyms in the United States and New Zealand. Where it had been increased worldwide from 40m to 80m in response to the onset of the pandemic, it was reduced to 40m in the two nations, just as both countries experienced new spikes in Covid cases. Players apparently reacted angrily, but it took Niantic confusingly three weeks before they withdrew the obviously terrible idea.
During most of August, this obviously led to a lot of discussion on the topic the game’s Reddit channel, which in turn led to many users coming from smaller … scientifically oriented Reddit subs, such as NoNewNormal, Conspiracy and Conservative. This has obviously meant a lot of distracting conversation about issues that are not directly relevant to POGO, and as a result, the community has decided to remain silent in protest against Reddit.
They say that until Reddit bans the NoNewNormal sub, and improves its moderation significantly regarding misinformation about Covid about others, it will remain private. Currently the front of the sub reader:
“We have gone private in protest of Reddit’s inaction against misinformation by Covid. As our users know, Covid directly affects this player because Go is played out in real life with others. We have resisted misinformation about Covid before, and stood with the community when they asked Niantic to return 80m distances so we could continue to play safely. For this purpose, we will remain private to NoNewNormal and similar subs dedicated until error information is excluded. ”
Further explanation is given in a post created by user BootsMade4Walking, which describes their desire for “visible and immediate action against subs dedicated to disseminating misinformation around Covid.” As the requirements become somewhat more ambiguous, including (our emphasis), we will remain private to NoNewNormal and similar subs dedicated until misinformation is prohibited. ”
It’s part of a major move on Reddit to try to get the platform to change the moderation policy to ban misinformation about Covid.
The absolute and total failure of social media prevent spread of covid-19 disinformation and conspiracy theories will be a pity the technology world is experiencing for a long time. While number of deaths directly caused by the spread of lies about the virus — and the vaccinations that protect against it — will never be possible to calculate; their blood is partly in the hands of companies that have always known they are ill-equipped to handle the scale of their own creations.
Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others have all proven to be terribly incompetent and incapable to deal with the use of their services to spread deadly nonsense to the ignorant and gullible. Reports have shown through the pandemic how disastrous their well-known attempts at control have been. Now it seems that Reddit users are demanding better from their hosts.
Although there are very valid questions to ask about freedom of speech, and the rights of a person to express themselves, it is crucial to note that most social media have never claimed to offer such a service, and confess to prevent the spread of such virulent content over virus information. However, Reddit has always been different in this matter, and has done so no such clear policy, but rather a more ambiguous proposal, despite increasingly desperate conversations for it to change.
Actual, as CNN reported last week, the company has refused to budge, doubling its refusal to extend moderation beyond that to its user-led volunteer moderators. This was in response to an open letter from hundreds of Reddit subscribers (including r / pokemongo), requesting changes. On Wednesday last week, Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman (without spec),
“Although we appreciate the feelings of those who demand that we ban more communities challenging the consensus on the pandemic, we continue to believe in the good of society and hope that we collectively approach the challenges of the pandemic with empathy, compassion and a willingness to understand what others go through, even when their view of the pandemic is different from yours. ”
Perhaps more controversial, he also says,
“Disagreement is part of Reddit, and the foundation of democracy. Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate. This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus. This includes conversations that criticize those who disagree with the majority. This includes protests that criticize or protest against our decisions about which communities to exclude from the platform. ”
So what might be a dog whistle with the peculiar statement,
“When it comes to COVID-19 in particular, what we know and what is today’s best practice from authoritative sources, such as the CDC, is constantly evolving with new learning. Given the rapid state of change, we believe it is best to enable communities to participate in debate and disagreement, and that we can connect to the CDC where appropriate. Although we believe the CDC is the best and most up-to-date source of information on COVID-19, we disagree with them. “
The suggestion that the CDC may change its mind about vaccines at any time is clearly despicable, and an absolutely ridiculous attempt to justify the website refusing to mess with this case. Ironically, if he had just stuck to his statements about allowing for freedom of speech, he would at least have a consistent argument.
This response has led to the reaction of r / pokemongo, and other subs could potentially follow. So far, r / pokemongo is the only sub signed the open letter with over a million subscribers for having made such a move. It’s clear that subs like r / pics and r / gifs that get dark are far more likely to get a reaction out of Huffman than just one mobile game.
If other major subs follow, it will prove to be an interesting moment in Reddit’s history, having to choose between maintaining its commitment to open discussion, and losing a significant volume of its regular traffic.