A cartoon in which Xi Jinping is depicted as the coronavirus was posted on r/pics this past Saturday and subsequently locked at around 8,000 up-votes. A similar post that included Trump remained unlocked until Sunday, when it was also locked. This came after several subreddits voiced their displeasure.
This is not surprising given that Reddit has a long history of political bias. The site has been very critical of right wing subreddits such as r/the_donald while applying different standards to left-leaning subs. Subreddit rules are routinely broken to allow anti-Trump posts on non-political forums, including core subs such as r/pics, r/funny and r/askreddit.
The front page of r/politics, r/politicalhumor and other “neutral” political subs are all filled with exclusively left-leaning opinion pieces. Conservative comments or links are down-voted to irrelevancy in minutes. Think pieces from far left blogs such as Salon can routinely be found on the front page of r/politics, a sub where the “civil discussion” rule only seems to apply to conservatives. Violent and certainly uncivil discourse has become commonplace there, all documented by the r/shitpoliticssays subreddit.
Reddit as a whole has been criticized for increased Chinese influence in recent months. The site recently received a $150 million investment from the Chinese tech firm Tencent and has been accused of cracking down on content critical of China. The r/WatchRedditDie subreddit is a good resource for shady activity regarding censorship on the site. Several posts critical of China have been removed from popular subs since this deal, including:
- A meme making fun of racism claims regarding the use of the term “Chinese virus” in r/dankmemes
- A Wuhan resident’s coronavirus vlog in r/OddlyTerrifying
- A post about the Chinese government monopolizing life saving medications in r/WorldNews
- A video of a Chinese citizen being interrogated for criticizing the police on r/videos
- An opinion regarding the Chinese government’s horrific human rights record on r/UnpopularOpinion
- A similar post in r/UnpopularOpinion was also removed
It should be noted that Reddit operates as a collection of different forums with their own individual rules. However, the pattern is concerning.
Political bias is also rampant, as mentioned above. The site’s leading pro-Trump subreddit – r/the_donald – has been effectively silenced after the moderators of the sub refused to allow Reddit appointed admins to take control.
“I’m confident that Reddit could sway elections. We wouldn’t do it, of course. And I don’t know how many times we could get away with it. But, if we really wanted to, I’m sure Reddit could have swayed at least this election, this once” Huffman said in an interview with the New Yorker.