Artificial IntelligenceCryptocurrencyMetaverseCybersecurityTech Forward

Reddit defends allowing COVID-19 misinformation to spread on its forums

August 26, 2021, 9:15 PM UTC

Reddit defended its policy of allowing users to post COVID-19 misinformation in forums despite several of the service’s moderators urging the company to remove them.

The company said it would allow users to post content on its message boards that question the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines and mask wearing, both of which health experts overwhelmingly approve of.

“Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy,” the company said in a statement. “Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate. This includes conversations that question or disagree with popular consensus.”

Earlier this week, multiple moderators of popular subreddits, or forums, joined to release a statement “calling on the admins to take ownership of their website, and remove dangerous medical disinformation that is endangering lives and contributing to the existence of this ongoing pandemic.”

“There needs to be a more active involvement in preventing the spread of the disinformation that is keeping us within a pandemic that at this point is entirely manageable,” the moderators said. “The main problem with a concerted disinformation campaign is that such a message attains an air of legitimacy through sheer volume of repetition.”

Reddit said it would take unspecified action against users who manipulate or cheat the company to “to amplify any particular viewpoint.” It added that it would “continue to action communities that do so or that violate any of our other rules, including those dedicated to fraud (e.g., fake vaccine cards) or encouraging harm (e.g., consuming bleach).”

Reddit emphasized that “the best way forward for everyone is to get vaccinated” and that people should follow “CDC guidelines on masking.” However, it can “appreciate that not everyone agrees with the current approach to getting us all through the pandemic, and some are still wary of vaccinations.”

In the past, Reddit has banned certain subreddits for violating the company’s policies governing hate speech. For instance, in 2020, Reddit banned the r/The_Donald subreddit discussion forum, because of the prevalence of antagonistic and racist comments that could be perceived as inciting violence. 

In 2017, Reddit banned a forum for so-called incels, which generally refers to men who are celibate against their will and fault women for it, because many of the posts urged violence against women.

More tech coverage from Fortune:

Subscribe to Fortune Daily to get essential business stories straight to your inbox each morning.