From the famous-before-it-was-even-posted exposé by Adrian Chen on Violentacrez, reddit’s biggest troll and the creator of the now-banned r/jailbait.
Considering that the response of many reddit moderators (e.g. r/politics) had been to ban links to Gawker once they heard that Chen’s article would expose Violentacrez’ identity, you can see the tension between outrage and free speech finally sort of breaking, and giving away to censorship (of a very specific kind).
I guess this really means that Gawker trolled Reddit in the same way that Violentacrez did: Chen’s article pitted the same moral sense of outrage (though this time it’s outrage at the shaming of redditors) against the right to free speech. Except that this troll (re: a noun) had the opposite effect as when Violentacrez did it. Instead of standing for free speech, as reddit has tried desperately to for all the fucked up and ridiculous things that Violentacrez posted and moderated, redditors end up banning the source of discomfort - the publication that would have them turn inwards and think that maybe, just maybe, they don’t really (nor should they really) support free speech in the unconditional way they think they do.
And more than that, it shows that prominent reddit moderators stand for the integrity of their tribes above all other values. They are partisan to the extreme; what goes into reddit stays in reddit, and that even includes criticism. I’ve spent a decent amount of time on reddit to know that this is both the best and the worst thing about the site.
Redditors are incredibly self-aware and willing to consider complaints from the members of their subreddits - but not those from other sub-reddits or sites. They’re able to curate a set of links and upvote posts of relevance to the point that they are complete and fine-grained articulations of whole cultures (even if they sometimes exist only online). It’s also the problem: that this insularity, this sureness of the core tenets of identity that any online community requires if it’s to actually persist throughout the years, well, it’s shared by the subscribers of deeply troubling subreddits too. The power users of r/jailbait are just as committed to their cause as the members of r/shitredditsays.
And so reddit, the larger entity owned by Condé Nast, kinda deserves kudos. They invented a system that works really really really well. Shockingly well. It’s an amoral system for developing a culture, and it’s probably also good at encouraging myopia and insularity and so on, but in the end, it’s just a system with some flaws. Their governance of it is where they’re committing the real sin, and where the “free speech” meme originated, and where responsibility for what happens on a network as large but still as centralized as reddit can be found. They’ve successfully created a nexus of culture, a way to express and formalize and promote cultures, and now they ought to ask exactly which ones are morally reprehensible. Like subreddits, they ought to ask what behaviour will not be tolerated - and the Gawker issue shows that they just can’t hide behind the banner of free speech to take a pass on that question. They can’t just hide behind free speech when really they’re hiding behind a reddit exceptionalism: the idea that what’s upvoted, subscribed to, and promoted within an amoral system couldn’t possibly be immoral.