Should moderators provide removal explanations? Analysis of32 million posts finds that providing a reason why a post was removed reduced the likelihood of that user having a post removed in the future.
There’s something to be said for the amount of attention moderators offer their users. In many cases, moderators make it quite clear why their posts have been removed from the platform. When an image makes its way out into the “status” section on a subreddit, users expect moderators to take it down. However, with the amount of content moderators receive each day, there are questions as to whether moderators should even be explaining why their posts are being removed from the Reddit network.
A study by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Isaac Price compiled data from 2016 to see how easy it is for members of Reddit to receive a follow-up comment from moderators explaining why their posts were removed. What is obvious is that, for all their efforts to reach out to and encourage members of Reddit to remove content that violates their communities, moderators are often in the awkward position of trying to explain why their posts have been removed.
This, though, is not to say moderators should no longer offer the explanation. Reddit posts with links seem particularly egregious, where moderators act as censors. This is why developers such as Twisted Pixel tried to create an incentivizing system in addition to full removal functionality. Below, you can see the official Reddit post from Twisted Pixel explaining the process behind their posts and why you should delete them.
Yet there’s still something about Reddit’s system of moderators making it difficult for users to understand why their posts are getting pulled from the community. It’s hard to get a clear-cut answer, though Price hopes there will be more research looking into the Reddit censorship. What the study found is that not only does removing content on Reddit make users less likely to engage with it, it decreases the likelihood of their posts being removed in the future.
“When articles with a link in the original post are shown in the status section, it seems that users on Reddit have less faith in the moderators. Questions about moderation appear more frequently, which reduces the chance of their post remaining on the site.”
There was a bit of a positive surprise when Price also found out that Reddit is using more gamification to encourage moderation. Reddit’s analysis found that users who had been asked to find the articles that led to the posts were more likely to correct the post. Perhaps more importantly, this is because Reddit users who posted to Reddit’s community page and used voting features have a bias towards feedback. The more Reddit users interact with Reddit’s community page in areas like the posts they post, the more likely they are to return to the page.
“The fact that the community is becoming even more important for our team members… It’s a real responsibility. I do want people to know that Reddit is in many ways the most important news organization of the 21st century. And I think part of it is because the impact of Reddit is so significant, it’s inescapable.”
And so, regardless of what you might think of Reddit’s apparent lack of transparency, it may still be one of the best environments to find quality content on the site. It should be pointed out that this is only the current data and the results cannot be used in a larger study as the Reddit censorship algorithm is constantly being refined and the presence of activism on the site is heightened. Nonetheless, with Reddit becoming a thing more and more of a mainstream for users and creators in the past few years, it is being embraced as such. This is all good, because we need more quality content to further fan the flames of discourse, but it also speaks volumes about what Reddit’s community thinks of it. The Reddit censorship issue is definitely a question to explore, but we have to hope it is addressed for the good of community and others like it.