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Reddit Lets Users Block the Hecklers and the Trolls

Reddit programmer Keith Mitchell works in his office at the company's headquarters in San FranciscoReddit programmer Keith Mitchell works in his office at the company's headquarters in San Francisco
A Reddit programmer works in his office at the company's headquarters in San Francisco. Reddit, the website with a retro-'90s look and space-alien mascot, tracks everything from online news to celebrity Q&As.Photograph by Robert Galbraith — Reuters

Reddit, the Internet’s freewheeling post-anything message board for everything from the bizarre to the profane is letting its users crack down on personal attacks.

On Wednesday the company announced it’s offering Redditors a new kind of blocking tool so they can essentially mute people who post offensive or harassing comments.

The site is known for being home to celebrity Q&A “AMA” (ask-me-anything) sessions and, of course, lots and lots of cat pictures. But the site acknowledges there’s also a “dark side” to Reddit.

“Reddit is a place where virtually anyone can voice, ask about or change their views on a wide range of topics, share personal, intimate feelings, or post cat pictures,” writes Reddit user KeyserSosa, aka Chris Slowe, one of the company’s founding engineers.

“Sometimes this very openness can lead to less awesome stuff like spam, trolling, and worse, harassment,” Slowe said.

This isn’t the first time Reddit has let users block people they don’t like. But the new tool is a more comprehensive way to take offensive posters completely off your radar.

Now when Redditors block someone, instead of the site simply nixing private messages from that person, all of the blocked user’s posts and public comments will be invisible to the person who chose to block them. The blocked user, however, will not know they’ve been blocked, and others will still be able to see their posts.

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Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has said in the past that the site “should be a place where anyone can pull up their soapbox and speak their mind.”

But last summer the 10-year-old site announced its soapbox did come with a few rules. Reddit started restricting certain kinds of content on the site, like comments inciting violence or harassment, or sexually suggestive content featuring minors.

And after pressure from governments in Russia and Germany, the company also censored some individual Reddit groups in those countries last August. (One group was dedicated to watching murders and another was for growing psychoactive mushrooms.)

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Now the San Francisco-based company is making a push to break into the mainstream, hoping to compete more with big-league social networks like Facebook and Twitter and draw in more advertisers, The New York Times reports. So it’s letting users take more of the reins on censorship by opting-out of the posts they don’t want to see.