What just happened? The moderators of some of the most popular subreddits have written an open letter to the administration, calling for a ban on any subreddit created for the sole purpose of spreading medical disinformation and undermining efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
At open letter, the moderators expressed concern about the consequences of spreading misinformation. Until now, disinformation about Covid-19 “has been allowed to spread easily through inaction and malice” on Reddit.
The administration promised take a stand against the issue, but to this day, it has only quarantined one problematic subreddit, which is said to have “barely [reduced] traffic and does little to stop misinformation. “
Of a broader set of claims made by these troublesome subreddits, the most common are:
- The pandemic does not exist
- Wearing a mask suffocates you
- This is just a normal flu virus
- It is a biological weapon
Since these claims are repeated so often, misinformed people begin to believe them and trust them to be correct when seeing others in the same boat, creating some kind of hive mind effect in these communities.
If not resolved, misinformation can cost lives. For example, these subreddits have spread unsafe medical advice, such as promoting the ingestion or injection of dewormers for livestock. A known side effect of taking them is sudden death. Although it may seem ridiculous to some, the rise of this practice to treat Covid-19 symptoms forced the FDA to affair a warning about it.
To avoid further damage, Reddit is being asked to “take ownership of your website” by removing erroneous medical information from the platform. Reddit has yet to respond to the letter.
The list of subreddits supporting the cause of stopping the spread of Covid-19 misinformation is immense, from small subreddits with fewer than 500K subscribers to those with more than 10 million. Of all those featured on this list, the most popular (+20 million subscribers) are r / aww, r / dataisbeautiful, r / EarthPorn, r / pics, and r / showerthoughts.
Image Credit: Brett jordan