My Cancellation Has Already Begun

Last Monday, I logged into Reddit looking for fun things to upvote when I was hit by an admin message informing me that my account has been permanently suspended. No recourse. No discussion. No mercy. And why was I banned? Because I had upvoted something that was deemed to be in violation of the site’s terms and conditions.

I didn’t post anything obscene or say anything against the rules. I simply pushed a button that could mean I was in full agreement with the statement or that I thought it was funny or that I was just trying to be nice by liking as many things as I could. There are any number of reasons for an upvote on Reddit. But apparently there’s only one reason that counts: malicious intent.

How Did This Start?

Reddit announced a policy change last October, but I didn’t think much of it at the time. It turned out to be crucially important to my continued existence on that site, though. The first hint that something was wrong came in January when I received this message:

We’ve been alerted to activity on your account(s) that is considered breaking Reddit’s rules.

You recently upvoted a post or comment that was determined to be against our policies. Abusive content is not acceptable on Reddit, nor is engaging with it. Please be thoughtful about the content that you interact with.

Please familiarize yourself with Reddit’s Content Policy to make sure you understand the rules for participating on Reddit.

It seemed silly at the time. I upvoted a post or comment that broke their rules? Then punish the person who made the post or comment, not someone as disconnected from it as me. The only reason I had engaged with it was because they had allowed it onto their site. If anything, that situation should prompt them to look inward at their own standards for publishing and not punish those who unknowingly like something they allowed to be published on their site in the first place. If they truly wanted to eliminate this problem, they could simply apply a filter to anything a person attempts to post on their site so that it would have to be approved before becoming visible to other users.

Getting Worse

I brushed the first message off as a fluke since I had never received a warning like that in 11 years on the site. However, three weeks later I got a second nearly identical message. Except this time I was informed I was suspended for three days, and I wasn’t told to familiarize myself with their policy.

Your account has been suspended from Reddit for breaking the rules. The suspension will last 3 day(s).

You recently upvoted a post or comment that was determined to be against our policies. Abusive content is not acceptable on Reddit, nor is engaging with it. Please be thoughtful about the content that you interact with.

That definitely got my attention. I tried asking for clarification from them about what post I was being suspended for upvoting, and I got no response. It was as if they expected me to read their minds. How could I avoid getting in trouble when I didn’t know what I was being punished for? I did not upvote anything with the intention of offending anyone, and I did not believe I had shown support for anything abusive, so obviously my understanding of what was determined to be against their policies was lacking. It’s unreasonable to expect me to understand and obey their vague notions of appropriate content. I need concrete examples of misdeeds. If they truly valued my patronage and wanted to help me keep their rules, as other sites have done, they should have taken the trouble to help me understand my misstep. This leads me to interpret the whole occurrence as simply a way to remove me from their site.

Last Chance

The ban lifted and I carried on as best as I could, but it only took two more weeks for me to get another warning. Now I was suspended for seven days. I decided to spend that week away from the site. I didn’t want to look at anything, knowing that I couldn’t interact with it and (more importantly) not knowing what parts of it could spell my doom by simply seeing it as worthy of my attention.

When that week was up, I knew I was on thin ice. This was my last chance to avoid getting permanently banned. I could have tried disengaging from the site and not upvoting anything. That would have been the wisest thing to do. But I’m a creature of habit, and I wanted to believe the site wasn’t a mere shadow of its former self. I wanted to believe I wouldn’t be banned for totally innocuous behavior. I did my best to scale back my activity on the site. I barely clicked anything, by my usual standards, and tried to be selective in everything I upvoted.

Alas, it took just a week and a half for me to receive this final message:

Reddit permanently banned me for simply upvoting something.

It felt like a punch to the gut. How could they do this when I had made every good-faith attempt I could think of to show I wasn’t intentionally breaking any rule? And even if I had, didn’t they have a responsibility to tell me exactly what I was doing wrong so that I could improve my behavior in the future and learn from my mistakes?

The Beginning of the End

I don’t want this to come across as merely complaining about being unjustly kicked off a single social-media website. I worry that this isn’t an isolated incident. If Reddit can kick someone as well-intentioned as myself off their site for simply engaging with content they allowed on their site long enough for me to see it, what’s to stop them from banning everyone else with an opinion they don’t like?

And that goes for every social-media site. If these companies won’t stand up for the individual’s rights to free speech, then who will? This is a dangerous precedent I predicted in my earlier article, “I Wonder When I Will Be Canceled.” As you can see, it has already begun. I’ve been canceled off of Reddit for simply liking some unknown post or comment that was apparently in violation of their arbitrary speech code.

It’s not the end of the world that I was kicked off, but this pattern signals the beginning of the end of free speech as we know it. There’s no need to fear, though. Conniving men and women will seek to deny us our voices, but that won’t change our minds. I’ll continue to share my thoughts on this website and anywhere else I have access to. And I hope we’ll all strive to see the good in others and try not to take offense whether it was intended or not.

This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.

About Robert Lockard, the Deja Reviewer

Robert Lockard has been a lover of writing since he was very young. He studied public relations in college, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 2006. His skills and knowledge have helped him to become a sought-after copywriter in the business world. He has written blogs, articles, and Web content on subjects such as real estate, online marketing and inventory management. His talent for making even boring topics interesting to read about has come in handy. But what he really loves to write about is movies. His favorite movies include: Fiddler on the Roof, Superman: The Movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Back to the Future, Beauty and the Beast, The Fugitive, The Incredibles, and The Dark Knight. Check out his website: Deja Reviewer. Robert lives in Utah with his wife and four children. He loves running, biking, reading, and watching movies with his family.
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3 Responses to My Cancellation Has Already Begun

  1. Lita says:

    So just to be clear: An individual is allowed to post an idea that is in violation of their rules, while an upvote of that same idea results in having one’s account permanently suspended. Hmm. *note to self* do not go anywhere near Reddit. Thank goodness for WordPress. All the best to you and yours, Robert! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lita says:

    A platform creates a problem: they allow an idea to be posted that is clearly in violation of their rules/policies. The post is not removed. Someone upvotes it. The upvoter is banned from their site.

    That is one tribe I will never join.

    Thank goodness for WordPress: a mixed and diverse platform. Long may it be so. Thank you for being here.

    Best wishes to you and yours, Robert. Have an excellent week. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. It’s so easy to see the problem they created and to identify several solutions:
      1. Don’t allow certain comments and posts onto their site in the first place.
      2. Grow a thicker skin and only worry about violent or libelous content.
      3. Let individual subreddits police their users’ content according to their own rules.
      But no. They have to go down a bizarre path of top-down censorship against people engaging with so-called abusive content. You’re wise to stay away from Reddit. It will collapse as more people realize it’s no longer any fun to be on there.
      And I agree. I’m grateful for WordPress’s hands-off approach. I hope that that will last a good long while. Have a great day, Lita, and thank you!

      Like

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