Reddit, the popular website where users post articles and comments on topics ranging from music to science, has created a stir this week thanks to an opinion piece one of its moderators wrote about posts denying climate change.
Reddit's science subsection boasts over four million subscribers—scientists and non-scientists alike—and is moderated by a group of 24 users.
One of those moderators, Nathan Allen, submitted an opinion piece to Grist on December 16, writing about how Reddit Science bans posts denying climate change, and calling for newspapers to follow suit.
The policy has actually been in effect at Reddit Science for about a year. Moderators noticed that many posts denying climate change were not related to peer-reviewed research, which is a requirement of all submissions to the Reddit Science site, Allen told the climate section of the blog ThinkProgress.
Once moderators began to crack down on this, Allen writes in Grist that they saw an immediate change in the tone and civility of discussions on climate change.
"Where once there were personal insults and bitter accusations, there is now discussion of the relevant aspects of the research," Allen writes. "Instead of (almost comically) paranoid and delusional conspiracy theories, we have knowledgeable users explaining complicated concepts to non-scientists who are simply interested in understanding the research."
Allen's piece has provoked over 600 comments on the Reddit Science website so far. Some express derision or outrage, while some wonder if discussion of the opinion piece itself should be removed since it's not related to peer-reviewed research.
"I would say if the posted article meets the criteria of the forum it should be allowed," wrote wbell on Reddit Science. "Given that most climate denial articles are just blog posts and not current peer-reviewed research, they would not meet the criteria and should be removed on [those] grounds, but if someone can find a valid article they should be able to post it."
"It's not that we have it out for climate science deniers as much as it is our subreddit reflects the current scientific consensus in the form of only allowing peer-reviewed material from reputable journals, which almost completely excludes climate science denial given the overwhelming agreement in the scientific community on this subject," writes Inri137, a Reddit Science moderator.
This move by Reddit Science is only the latest in its attempts to crack down on unsubstantiated comments in its community. Moderators use similar methods when reviewing posts against vaccination or evolution.