If you are looking for the r/technology subreddit on Reddit’s homepage today, you will not find it. The section has been banished from the default lineup of subreddits as its moderators failed to “moderate effectively,” according to Reddit spokeswoman Victoria Taylor in a statement to the BBC.
What crime did these moderators actually commit? Instead of moderating discussions carefully, r/technology’s moderators used a bot called AutoModerator to automatically delete content that mentioned potentially controversial topics. These topics included: NSA, Edward Snowden, Bitcoin, SOPA, net neutrality, and more. Users were able to identify the censored keywords and pointed out the error of the moderators’ ways.
Reddit seems to be giving the moderators a chance to clean up their process and actively moderate once again, but many users are calling for the dismissal of all the r/technology moderators.
So what is the main lesson we can learn from this Community Management mishap?
Auto-anything is an automatic no-no.
Consumers hate automated responses, follow-ups, and anything else with the word auto in front of it. Auto-moderation is included. Of course, many use auto-censoring for inappropriate material such as spam and curse words (depending on your brand), but automatically censoring certain topics can make your audience feel cheated. They may also feel like you are not putting in the work necessary to maintain a functioning community if you resort to bots.
Think of how much you like dealing with a bot when you contact your cable company. You should treat your online community the exact opposite way.
Do you feel the Reddit was justified in removing the technology forum from its homepage as a lesson? Let us know in the comments.