Reddit or one should say many popular websites have a pretty fraught relationship with the Russian government, accompanied with consistent threats and incidents of blocking websites in the country. In a recent turn of events, Reddit was blacklisted and banned from many ISPs of Russia.
However within hours, the ban got uplifted much to the surprise of many Reditters who were left wondering what on earth is going on between Reddit and Russia.
The things got clear when Russia’s Federal service for the Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, the Roskomnadzor posted an update on the social network of Russia, VKontacte ,
On August 13, federal officials received on their “hot line” a message from the site’s administrators saying Internet users in Russia no longer have access to the illegal content. Roskomnadzor has confirmed [Reddit’s] full compliance, and accordingly removed the website from the registry of illegal online materials.
The whole things started when Roskomnadzor found a 2 year old thread on Reddit which had a discussion about cultivation of drug plants. According to Latvian-based Meduza which first broke the news, the page was titled “Minimal and Reliable Methods for Growing Psilocybe” and contained instructions to grow psychedelic mushrooms.
Given the fact that Russian government is particularly sensitive about drug abuse and anything even remotely related to it, Roskomnadzor went ahead and requested the Reddit administrators to remove the said page from the website.
However, Reddit failed to respond in time which led Roskomnadzor to launch a full blown attack on Reddit posting its irk on social media and even made a poster describing Reddit administrators as WANTED and accused Reddit of being “understaffed” in the August holiday season.
They further prompted Reddit users to contact the administrators and urge them to check their mails else they would block the entire website which they did after some time. However, the ban has now been lifted as Reddit complied with their request and removed the said page.
However, this is in itself is interesting as some time back, Reddit had made its stand pretty clear regarding these issues and had posted a thread entitled “Let’s talk content” in which it stated that “anything illegal … things that are actually illegal, such as copyrighted material” would be removed from pages but discussing about illegal things like drug abuse was not illegal and so it would remain.
It thus isn’t really clear, which way Reddit is heading too. More freedom, or more compliance.
Given the recent flak Reddit has been receiving from various government authorities for some hugely controversial and sensitive content on its pages, Reddit seems to have become a bit more laid back in its policy which became clear in the latest statement Reddit gave to TechCrunch after the Russian incident:
Reddit is a US company that operates a website with millions of users, posts, and comments. We regularly receive government requests around the world to remove content from Reddit and closely review these requests considering applicable local laws. We want to ensure our services are available to users everywhere but if we receive a valid request from an authorized entity, we reserve the right to restrict content in a particular country.
So yeah, Reddit has indeed chosen “compliance” over freedom. Looking at the number of users it was set to loose, this might prove to be a rather sensible decision. It’ll be interesting to see though, Reddit’s actions in such situations in the near future.