Reddit disables my account

The ban

Sixteen years ago I created my Reddit account on the 24th of March, 2008. On Friday the 26th of April, 2024 my account was permanently banned with a somewhat cryptic message:

Reddit ban message

The message refers to violations of the terms of service on my alternate accounts. Unfortunately, I (genuinely!) do not have any alternate accounts on Reddit and haven’t been engaged in anything that would violate their terms of service.

This sort of thing is a bit frustrating, as over the past sixteen years I’ve contributed posts and comments in to the community and out of nowhere it’s like that entire contribution has been erased from the Internet. While you can view your posts on your banned account, no-one else can. Everything you contributed is rendered invisible. It’s like it never existed at all.

A deeper reflection

What does this episode teach us?

There is a general problem with social media in that you’re using someone else’s platform, contributing to it for free, and yet you are entirely at the mercy of their terms of service and their judgement and enforcement of their rules.

You’re also at the mercy of their back-up strategy, the general health of their business and their good-will in preserving whatever content you give them for the longer term.

It all seems to be centered on what they want and not what we want or need.

How did we get here?

This is something I’ve written about before.

When I was a teenager, the web was a very different place. If you wanted to have a presence on the web you largely had to build that yourself.

There were sites that tried to make the process simpler, Geo-cities being the most famous, but even building a site in something like Geo-cities was a significant effort.

Back when I wrote the article 18 years ago, the problem I outlined was MySpace starting to displace the home-grown website. I sensed the danger that these pre-packaged website builders represented. They marked a fundamental shift in the web. It turned out the shift was even more fundamental than I could imagine at the time.

In the years after I wrote my post, completely pre-packaged platforms would emerge and become mass market. These platforms later became known as social media.

In a matter of just a few years, most of these hobbyist home-grown websites would be gone. That early diversity of the web was destroyed and replaced with giant social media companies and their sterile platforms.

Rewilding our web

There’s talk in ecology of rewilding our landscapes. Replacing the rolling farmers’ fields with the natural forests that used to cover Britain. The idea being that bio-diversity that was lost in the transition to farming can be reclaimed by giving the land back to nature.

I believe the web needs the same sort of treatment. We’ve given too much farm-land over to social media and we need more forests.

The solution is for us technical folks to start taking our content away from these companies and publishing it ourselves on infrastructure we control.

This is not a new idea, there are plenty of folks who have woken up to the fact that we’ve given too much control over to these companies:

The time before social media was a fundamentally richer experience. The world was a bit less homogenous and websites had more character. We connected with each other via RSS feeds and web-rings.

More importantly, I think we all hated each other less. It wasn’t perfect but it was ours and in its own way it was beautiful.

I’d encourage anyone that can to get a text-editor, power up a web-server of your choice, and start creating great things that are not at the mercy of shareholder returns.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

  1. 2024-05-18 09:45 GMT
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