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Reddit porn debate sparks anger

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Social news site Reddit’s “ideas for the admins” sounds like it might be another anodyne suggestion box, a place for redditors to submit ideas to help improve their community.

But when jeteemoi, a professed porn-addict, asked for a simple sitewide button that would block all porn links, other redditors lashed out—displaying the community’s strong sense of self and its independent mores.

“You have to go to Reddit,” wrote mnky9800n. “It does not go to you. Stop going to reddit instead of trying to get someone else to solve your problems for you.”

Redditor glyserinesoul took an even bigger swipe:

“Be a big boy, take matters into your own hands, do whatever it takes for you to feel safe, and quit trying to place your own burdens onto others.” (The whole comment is worth reading, despite or perhaps because of its viciousness.)

Why the vitriol?

There are actually ways to block not-safe-for-work, or NSFW, links already. The easiest is Reddit Enhancement Suite, a free, third-party browser extension that includes a broad range of functions, including porn-filtering tools.

Even with the enhancement suite, thumbnails of NSFW links don’t show up unless you actually subscribe to an NSFW subreddit, or section. However, subreddits like Pics sometimes host links to pornographic material which make it to Reddit’s homepage.

For the poster who suggested the porn-blocking feature, that was enough to test his porn addiction. He didn’t want to see any porn -- visual or textual -- on his homepage.

So again: Why the vitriol over this idea?

When I asked general manager Erik Martin about the exchange, he said he wasn’t “sure why the reaction was that strong, but it does seem like something individuals have control over through existing methods.”

And that’s what’s interesting about this: not so much the fact that, even on Reddit, porn in some form is nearly unavoidable.

It’s that, for Reddit power users, third-party apps are becoming an almost essential part of the experience. And the admins are fine with it. Like Twitter in its early days, third-party apps solve low-priority problems that the site’s full-time staff simply doesn’t have time to work on.

And the admin’s time? That’s something in which some redditors are quite emotionally invested, from years in which Reddit operated on a shoestring budget and a skeleton staff.

Don’t suggest wasting admins’ time, or redditors will get angry.