Reddit has been responding to a rise in copyright complaints by taking down large amounts of its content, according to a recent analysis. The study found that Reddit has increased its digital censorship not just due to offensive speech but also a dramatic rise in copyright complaints, through Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) takedown notices.
TorrentFreak has reported that takedowns of content by the social media site have risen more than 15,000 percent over the past five years. A history of Reddit’s content removals over time shows startling numbers. Its 2014 transparency report showed only 66 removals in response to copyright infringement complaints that year. The company removed 4,352 pieces of content in 2017, and in 2021, that number skyrocketed to 665,898.
TorrentFreak founder Ernesto Van de Sar described the number of copyright takedowns as unimaginable, although he pointed out that it speaks to the billions of content pieces generated by users on the Reddit platform.
Usually, social media companies are protected from censorship under the Communications Decency Act, Section 230, but this doesn’t apply to the copyright act, which holds precedence.
According to Section 230, an online platform is immune from lawsuits claiming copyright infringement by users-posted content on its website. However, DMCA regulations state that a platform may be liable for damages for each time a user accesses copyrighted music or other material on their site.
Online platforms, in a response to the legal liability of hosting offensive material, are now using automated tools to enforce censorship policies and copyright rules. Reddit says that these high-tech tools are responsible for 58.9 percent of the removed content, which amounted to more than 100 million removals in 2021.
Reddit will first ask users to “cease and desist” before taking more aggressive action, such as removing the content and banning the user. Typically, content moderation is handled on a community level, with all members able to respond. Reddit has so far not commented on its massive number of takedowns for copyright violations.