Published December 19, 2013
Critics are slamming Reddit over a single moderator's decision to ban climate-change skeptics from contributing to its science forum, attacking the move as “political censorship.”
In an op-ed titled “Reddit’s science forum banned climate deniers. Why don’t all newspapers do the same?” Nathan Allen -- who described himself a Ph.D. chemist for a major chemical company and a moderator on Reddit’s “/r/science” forum -- explained his decision to wipe comments from some users he dismissed as “problematic.”
“These people were true believers, blind to the fact that their arguments were hopelessly flawed, the result of cherry-picked data and conspiratorial thinking,” Allen said in his article, which is posted on Grist.org. “They had no idea that the smart-sounding talking points from their preferred climate blog were, even to a casual climate science observer, plainly wrong.”
Allen went on to attack climate-change skeptics further, saying that evidence to support their position “simply does not exist” and that such people are “enamored by the emotionally charged and rhetoric-based arguments of pundits on talk radio and Fox News.”
Finally, Allen called for other news outlets to follow his example, asking “if a half-dozen volunteers can keep a page with more than 4 million users from being a microphone for the antiscientific, is it too much to ask for newspapers to police their own editorial pages as proficiently?”
The move has drawn accusations of hypocrisy, as Reddit claims to be a haven for free speech and debate. The site describes itself as a place “friendly to thought, relationships, arguments, and to those that wish to challenge those genres.”
Brendan O’Neill, in a blog post for the UK Daily Telegraph, said Reddit has “ripped its own reputation to shreds,” and described the move as “political censorship, designed to silence the expression of dissent about climate-change alarmism on one of the Internet’s most popular user-generated forums.”
James Delingpole, columnist, climate skeptic and author of “The Little Green Book Of Eco Fascism,” was even louder in his criticism.
“The greenies -- and their many useful idiots in the liberal media -- are terrified of open debate on climate-change because the real world evidence long ago parted company with their scientifically threadbare theory,” Delingpole told FoxNews.com, arguing that Allen’s tactic is part of a “classic liberal defense mechanism: If the facts don't support you, then close down the argument.”
Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s director of communications, told FoxNews.com that while it was Allen’s prerogative to ban climate-change skeptics from “/r/science,” his statements “do not reflect the views of Reddit as a whole, or other science or climate-oriented subreddits.”
“Each subreddit community is entitled to its own views, and anyone who wants to start their own subreddit is welcome to do so devoted to their views, opinions or interests,” Taylor said.
While there is a subreddit dedicated to climate skeptics, it has far less research than the larger science board.
The move follows an October decision by Paul Thornton -- the letters section editor for the Los Angeles Times -- who said he wouldn’t publish some letters from those skeptical of man’s role in the planet’s warming climate, saying that denying climate-change “is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
Kelly McBride, who studies media ethics and is a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, defended the LA Times decision, telling FoxNews.com in November she was “all in favor” of Thornton refusing skeptics.
“One of our ethical imperatives as journalists is to speak the truth,” McBride said. “And when we constantly allow people to say things that are known falsehoods, we undermine the public perception and the facts of an issue.”
“It’s not like we in society want these voices to go away,” she said. “We just want them in proper tone and context.”
Allen’s climate-change comments are not the first time that Reddit’s moderation has been the subject of controversy. Earlier this year Reddit’s “/r/politics” forum banned a variety of sites, including Fox Nation, Huffington Post and National Review, in what it claimed was a move to avoid sensationalized headlines and “bad journalism.”
Additional reporting by Jeremy A. Kaplan