Reddit has replaced shadowbans, which made posts from users who broke the site’s rules invisible, with account suspensions. The community, which had 202 million unique visitors last month, implemented shadowbans to hide spam quickly, but the system was frustrating for individuals since they often had no idea if they had been shadowbanned.
“Our current form of account restriction, the shadowban, is great for dealing with bots/spam rings, but woefully inadequate for real human beings. We think suspensions are a vast improvement,” said Reddit in an announcement.
Shadowbans, the first kind of ban created and used by Reddit, were an efficient way to stop spammers from flooding the site, but had outgrown their usefulness, as Reddit admitted in a post three months ago. Users often weren’t told if they had been shadowbanned, which meant they could end up posting on subreddits for a while before finally figuring out why everybody seemed to be ignoring them.
The system also made it difficult for shadowbanned users to appeal to moderators in order to save their accounts. A subreddit, r/shadowban, was even created to let users know if they have been shadowbanned.
Account suspensions can currently only be applied by admins (who are Reddit staffers), not subreddit moderators. The biggest change with account suspensions is that users will be notified instantly by private message and a site notification. They can appeal by replying to the PM, instead of having to figure out over days or even weeks if they have been shadowbanned.
Suspensions can be permanent or temporary, with users told how long they won’t be able to post to Reddit (most bans will last about three to five days). Suspended users can’t post, vote, comment, or send private messages. Their accounts are still visible in read-only mode, and they can continue to delete or edit past posts and comments. As user u/Viking83 notes, this is important because it prevents admins from erasing posts they disagree with.
Account suspensions are a huge improvement over shadowbans, but the current system still has several drawbacks. For example, suspended moderators can’t modmail or manage their subreddits. This may (ironically) lead to an influx of spam, though Reddit may add that feature.
Nixing shadowbans and implementing a more transparent system of dealing with people who violate the site’s content policy may help ameliorate complaints by longtime users that Reddit, which launched in 2005, is ignoring the needs of its core community as seeks mainstream growth through initiatives like Upvoted, a news site that draws on popular posts for content.
The company has been under fire over the past few months for moves like the firing of Ask Me Anything coordinator Victoria Taylor, which led to a revolt by some of Reddit’s most heavily-trafficked subreddits. Before resigning in June, former chief executive officer Ellen Pao admitted that the company had “screwed up” by not delivering on promises to users and promised that the site would improve.