Reddit has expanded its current blocking tool in an effort to curb online harassment. The modified tool allows a user to hide someone else’s content without alerting that user that he or she has been blocked.
The move is logical — Reddit has long wrestled with how to address the outcries that historically occur when the site attempts to curb speech in any way, even if it is damaging to other users — and important. As one of the primary sites for the generation of popular internet memes, it sets the news feed stage for other social sites including Facebook and Twitter.
While the New York Times refers to move as Reddit “trying to grow up,” it can also be seen as less of an evolution and more of a succumbing to the pressures of the rest of the social media world. Nearly every other popular social media site has upped its anti-harassment game. Reddit has been slower to do so because it has historically touted “free speech” above all other tenets, which has translated into a negligence of sorts when it comes to hate speech. The site was highly criticized, for example, during 2014’s Gamergate — an ongoing controversy that highlights the dangerous online vitriol often directed against women, especially via social media.
Whether or not Reddit has succumbed to pressure or is, indeed, maturing, the balance between pleasing users clamoring for internet freedoms and those that insist on protection against harassment will always be a tricky one.