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Commentary – how do we fix life online without limiting free speech

New Yorker – Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet How do we fix life online without limiting free speech?

“Which Web sites get the most traffic? According to the ranking service Alexa, the top three sites in the United States, as of this writing, are Google, YouTube, and Facebook. (Porn, somewhat hearteningly, doesn’t crack the top ten.) The rankings don’t reflect everything—the dark Web, the nouveau-riche recluses harvesting bitcoin—but, for the most part, people online go where you’d expect them to go. The only truly surprising entry, in fourth place, is Reddit, whose astronomical popularity seems at odds with the fact that many Americans have only vaguely heard of the site and have no real understanding of what it is. A link aggregator? A microblogging platform? A social network? To its devotees, Reddit feels proudly untamed, one of the last Internet giants to resist homogeneity. Most Reddit pages have a throwback aesthetic, with a few crudely designed graphics and a tangle of text: an original post, comments on the post, responses to the comments, responses to the responses. That’s pretty much it. Reddit is made up of more than a million individual communities, or subreddits, some of which have three subscribers, some twenty million. Every subreddit is devoted to a specific kind of content, ranging from vital to trivial: r/News, r/Politics, r/Trees (for marijuana enthusiasts), r/MarijuanaEnthusiasts (for tree enthusiasts), r/MildlyInteresting (“for photos that are, you know, mildly interesting”). Some people end up on Reddit by accident, find it baffling, and never visit again. But people who do use it—redditors, as they’re called—often use it all day long, to the near-exclusion of anything else. “For a while, we called ourselves the front page of the Internet,” Steve Huffman, Reddit’s C.E.O., said recently. “These days, I tend to say that we’re a place for open and honest conversations—‘open and honest’ meaning authentic, meaning messy, meaning the best and worst and realest and weirdest parts of humanity.”…[I limit my time on Reddit to a couple of minutes a day – and FB to maybe once or twice a week – also for a couple of minutes. I must say though, that my experience with Reddit although limited to a very small segment of a few communities, has been enlightening. With the emphasis on limiting my time and scoping my reading carefully. I am not on Instagram, so I find the photos on Reddit remarkable and unique – a few each evening is a great rush of nature after being indoors working for too many daylight hours.]

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