Redditors rally against Chinese censorship of reddit content (whether that’s actually happening or not)
Conspiracy or no, people are freaking out
Reddit is a lot of things to a lot of different people: an endless source of cat memes, a stream of sports videos, a place of political, philosophical and spiritual discussion, a porn hub and, even, an international news bulletin.
The anonymous social platform fancies itself as, “The Front Page of the Internet.”
But, it’s a “Front Page” that may be heavily influenced by big corporate donors. Some of whom seem to be able to sway (and even outright remove) sensitive or damning content.
At least, that’s the speculation that is now circulating among many users and through a lot of different subreddits. People are starting to question how heavily the platform is censored and how much influence shady corporate investors might have in choosing what gets removed and/or buried.
For some background: Earlier this year, Tencent, a Chinese technology company (with known connections to the Chinese government) invested $150 million in Reddit. At the time, some people expressed fears that this could spell trouble for free speech on the social platform, since Tencent is widely known for censoring its technology both in and outside of China (as they were proven to be doing with their app WeChat).
But time passed and, within a matter of months, people had forgotton all about Tencents new stake in the Front Page of the Internet.
That was, until recently. Yesterday, videos related to the Hong Kong protests (which have engulfed the city in near-total chaos and ground both trade and transit operations to a halt) are reportedly being pulled and removed from subreddits like r/Videos and r/gifs like mandarins off a tree.
Some users are alleging conspiracy:
“This keeps getting deleted. Don't stop spreading awareness we gotta get this into hot. It was in all earlier and got taken down.” - Hazy_Lights.
“How and why is this getting deleted. Repost!” - SocraticIgnoramus.
“It has nothing to do with Tencent investing $150m into Reddit. Rest assured that it is only the algorithm. /s” - Seplus.
“Step 1: tencent invests 100 million dollars in reddit Step 2: when they invade HK, reddit scrubs the posts for them, taking them down with no reason given Step 3: We all live happily ever after” - Donaldtroll.
Others, however, say that the videos violated rules of the subreddits they were taken down from and were rightfully deleted.
“But it clearly states that it was removed because of Rule 1: no politics. Whether or not you agree with the rule, the post is obviously political in nature and violates the rule. I'm not seeing the conspiracy here, unless you're saying r/videos just added the rule to get rid of it.” - Deleriousidiot
“The fucking irony of it all: https://i.imgur.com/Ml0Tpwt.png. Getting a little tired of these low-effort posts that prey on reddit hysteria and hyperbole.” - Deviant.
Whether or not the video in question constitutes a political video, is up for you to decide:
Conspiracy or no, though, this video and others like it ended up making rounds across various subreddits, despite being pulled from a few. (And it doesn’t look like good news for the people of Hong Kong.)
And here’s the rub: even if Reddit was proven to be censoring users’ content stream and removing videos (or even full subreddits) that their investors told them to, it wouldn’t be unlawful or, for that matter, even amoral. Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman, has publicly stated that the site isn’t the “bastion of free speech” that so many of its users see it as. They maintain the right to kill any content they deem unsuitable.
So, in the end, it doesn’t matter one way or the other if these Hong Kong protest videos were removed intentionally for political reasons. At least, on a legal level.
Thankfully, the video ended up spreading like wildfire anyway. It's out and the world knows that things are getting serious across the pond.
That’s good news for The People of Hong Kong but also for the world at large. Something terrible seems to be ramping up over there and the videos, pictures and written accounts of it (whatever it turns out to be) deserve as much attention as possible.
Whether or not Tencent had anything to do with the videos’ removal from Reddit remains a mystery. One that might never be solved.
Though, that debate is still very much alive and ongoing.