Reddit Quarantines AntiMask Antivax Subreddit

The community is for "restoring our old ways of life," and is mostly full of conspiracy theories and misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations.
August 12, 2021, 5:34pm
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Wednesday, Reddit quarantined r/NoNewNormal, a subreddit that is generally antimask, antivax, and is also against any government COVID restrictions.

The subreddit is for "skeptical discussion of the 'new normal' that has manifested as an outcome of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic," according to its description. "We are a diverse international coalition with the shared goal of restoring our old ways of life before the world fell into the grips of fear and hysteria. Join the effort to improve the quality of discussion on Reddit by raising your own standards and encouraging the same of others." Most of the threads are dedicated to discussing conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 vaccine, which has drastically reduced death rates in countries that have been able to get significant portions of their population vaccinated.

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As of Thursday morning, it has 112,000 members. 

Now, when users visit the subreddit, they see a page that says the subreddit is quarantined, with the message, "For medical advice, please consult your physician" and options to enter or go back. Being quarantined means that posts from the subreddit will no longer show up on Reddit’s r/all page and users must be logged in to visit it.

The subreddit r/rejectnewnormal and r/refusenewnormal were banned for trying to create communities that served the same purpose as a previously-banned one. Other, related communities, r/PandemicHoax and r/truthseekers (for conspiracy theorists), are now set to private, so that only approved users can view them.

“The subreddit in question has been quarantined in accordance with Reddit's Quarantine Policy," a spokesperson for Reddit told me. Reddit has also addressed rule violating behaviors from some members individually. The platform prohibits users from encouraging others to do anything that might be harmful to their wellbeing—like drinking bleach to cure COVID-19, for example. 

Reddit quarantines communities to prevent them from being seen accidentally by users who stumble into them, according to the platform: "Quarantined subreddits and their subscribers are still fully obliged to abide by Reddit’s Content Policy and remain subject to enforcement measures." Quarantined subreddits don't generate revenue and aren't included in searches or recommendations. 

Most of the time, Reddit leaves moderation of subreddits up to individual moderators. Moderators are incentivized to make sure their communities play by Reddit's terms of service, to avoid being banned—the platform does step in, in extreme cases, as it recently did by banning subreddits dedicated to objectifying women Olympians and reposting stolen OnlyFans content. When it comes to COVID-19 misinformation, however, it's been criticized for taking a too hands-off approach: During the height of the pandemic in 2020, it quarantined r/Wuhan_Flu, but allowed it to continue to grow, despite it containing misinformation and hoaxes. “I feel it is becoming increasingly apparent that Reddit, with its voluntary content moderation system, is unable to respond adequately to the sharing of potentially dangerous health misinformation without significant reform in their moderation strategy,” a former r/Coronavirus moderator told Motherboard in February 2020. “The current system is insufficient at ensuring that health misinformation is not spread on that platform and needs significant reform.”

For the past 24 hours on r/NoNewNormal, users have been posting their outrage at Reddit for putting them in quarantine. "Reddit is silencing us for our ideas not our actions. We don't brigade or break site wide rules. Yet here we are digitally quarantined on a platform that once was about freedom of expression and speech. Current admins should be ashamed of what they did to the platform," one user wrote.