Reddit’s moderator purge could have real impacts on reliability and information safety as it rushes to replace mods with inexperienced, poorly vetted volunteers, according to Ars Technica. With testimony by both expelled former moderators and some of those who replaced them, Ars Technica’s report shows the trouble with the company’s push to quickly replace the mods who sent their subreddits dark, marked them NSFW, or turned them into jokey John Oliver fan forums earlier this year.
The Ars Technica piece lists several examples illustrating how this could be problematic. There’s a canning recipe that’s been allowed to stay up despite the potential to make people sick. A moderator with zero 3D-printing experience joined as a “joke” to replace a mod whose expertise included identifying functional gun printing recipes. A new home automation moderator insists expert knowledge is unnecessary in a subreddit where bad advice can lead to electrocution or compromised cybersecurity.
Fired mods who spoke with Ars Technica reportedly were uninterested in passing on their knowledge and experience to their replacements, while insufficient mod tools, once helped by now-dead third-party apps, mean even experienced still-volunteering mods may have trouble managing their communities. Both factors leave mods new and old with a tough row to hoe moving forward.
Stevie Chancellor, a computer science and engineering professor from the University of Minnesota, is quoted as saying she was concerned that mods wouldn’t be able to stop malicious users from encouraging people in mental health support forums “to hurt themselves for their own perverted desires.”