Content analysis

Copyright complaints spur massive rise in Reddit ripping content, analysis finds

Digital censorship is exploding on Reddit not just because of its offensive speech policies, but also because of a rise in copyright complaints, a study has found.

Skyrocketing copyright complaints have led to a more than 15,000% increase in takedowns on the social media website over a five-year period, according to analysis by law-focused outlet TorrentFreak author.

Reddit’s transparency reports show it removed 665,898 pieces of content in 2021 in response to copyright complaints, compared to 4,352 removals in 2017.

In 2014, Reddit made just 66 deletions in response to copyright complaints, according to its 2014 Transparency Report.

Ernesto Van der Sar of TorrentFreak wrote that the growing number of copyright takedowns subject to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was previously unimaginable. He said that’s an indication of the billions of user-generated content on the site.

“Overall, it’s clear that Reddit has its hands full in complying with DMCA takedown notices,” Van der Sar wrote on the TorrentFreak website on Sunday.


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Censorship actions by social media companies are generally protected under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but not under copyright law.

Section 230 provides platforms with immunity from lawsuits regarding content posted by users on the platforms. But under DMCA rules, a platform can quickly be held liable for corresponding damages every time someone accesses copyrighted material on the platform.

The issues associated with hosting violent and offensive content have prompted tech platforms to develop automated moderators to enforce copyright rules and censorship policies governing speech. For example, automated tools were responsible for more than 100 million deletions on Reddit last year, accounting for a majority, 58.9%, of deleted content, according to Reddit.

Reddit updated its censorship practices ahead of the 2020 election to combat “hate based on identity or vulnerability” and drew attention for removing subreddit forums r/The_Donald, which was popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump, and r/ChapoTrapHouse, which had liberal fans. .

Before removing content and banning users, Reddit lists its enforcement mechanisms as including “asking you nicely to remove it” and “asking you less nicely” before imposing restrictions and suspensions.

“Content moderation on Reddit takes a layered, community-driven approach,” Reddit said in its 2021 Transparency Report. self-organize, follow a common set of rules, establish community-specific standards, and ultimately share some responsibility for the operation of the platform.

Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the growth of its copyright takedowns.