Reddit’s leadership has declared war on “bad actors who are trying to manipulate Reddit.”
In a Thursday post to the Reddit Security subforum titled “Updates to Our Policy Around Impersonation,” Reddit representative u/LastBluejay, verified by the platform as a “Reddit admin, speaking officially,” made upcoming policy changes known. “Impersonation,” while noted as “one of the rarest report classes we receive,” will be watched closely in the coming year.
Reddit seems to have taken after Facebook’s recent move to clamp down on deepfakes ahead of the 2020 election. The term “deepfake” became a household name and acknowledged as a widely maligned menace in May 2019 when a slowed down video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi went viral.
New York Times contributing tech journalist and Recode’s co-founder Kara Swisher famously condemned Facebook for allowing the video to spread, and wrote, “This week, unlike YouTube, Facebook decided to keep up a video deliberately and maliciously doctored to make it appear as if Speaker Nancy Pelosi was drunk or perhaps crazy.”
The jury is still out on whether Reddit will be taking as hard a stance as Facebook, which said it would remove “misleading manipulated media” from its platform.
u/LastBluejay did note that Reddit has indeed seen “fake articles falsely attributed to real journalists, forged election communications purporting to come from real agencies or officials, or scammy domains posing as those of a particular news outlet or politician.”
In addition, u/LastBluejay explained that the platform is anticipating threats before they happen, “such as malicious deepfakes of politicians, for example, or other, lower-tech forged or manipulated content that misleads (remember, pornographic deepfakes are already prohibited under our involuntary pornography rule).”
The Reddit announcement, however, did appear to take a somewhat more free speech-style approach suggesting that the platform will try to be understanding towards humorous and satirical posts and is ready to hear appeals on a case-by-case basis. On one hand, u/LastBluejay acknowledged that parody accounts making fun of real and fictional people are a cornerstone of internet humor, but on the other, the Reddit representative observed that they can be a serious threat during an election year.
“This doesn’t apply to all deepfake or manipulated content,” u/LastBluejay explained, before clarifying, “just that which is actually misleading in a malicious way. Because believe you me, we like seeing Nic Cage in unexpected places just as much as you do.”
Reddit’s anti-impersonation rule is as follows:
“Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity. While we permit satire and parody, we will always take into account the context of any particular content.”
A Reddit spokesperson reportedly told Digital Trends, “We will continue to evaluate and evolve the policies, technology, and teams we have in place to protect the integrity of our site and will remain transparent with our community on these issues.”