Navigating Online Controversy

Reddit 103: Navigating Online Controversy

Reddit draws in people looking for niche interests and news alike. As a result, it attracts many people with differing opinions, which can be good news for advertising on the site. But as the case with any diverse platform, this can lead to controversy and the generation of trolls or people looking specifically to annoy or bully other users off of of Reddit.

Warning: when advertising on Reddit, you may come across trolls.


The platform has recently started to shadow-ban some of its subreddits – any that the current operators believe to be havens for white supremacy, hate groups and other organizations.

In light of these bans, controversy, and the apparent prevalence of such groups on the Reddit platform, is it worth it to invest in advertising through the forums?

The Quarantine Situation

Recently, Reddit operators placed over 20 subreddits under site quarantine for controversy investigation. This means that the sites no longer appear when searched for on Google or through other search engines. Instead, these platforms can only be found by people who already know about them – people with links or URLs. Prompts will also warn unfamiliar users away from these subreddits, given the nature of their content.

These subreddits included, but were not limited to, r/whitenationalism, r/fragilejewishredditor and r/the_donald.

Many of Reddit’s users who frequented these forums are calling the quarantine a violation of their First Amendment rights. This isn’t the case, but it has stirred up a significant amount of online hate speech, otherwise known as a “flame war.” The users affected by the quarantine have also moved to other subreddits, making life more difficult for unaffiliated users.

Yikes! Is Reddit Safe for Your Business?

What does it say about Reddit that it fostered these types of forums and that its users have responded so viciously to their banning?


For one, Reddit is open to people of all sorts. Unfortunately, as is the case on any social media platform, that kind of openness can attract racism and hatred. At least, it speaks highly of Reddit’s operators that the quarantine option is available and that it’s been used to protect the experience of otherwise-compromised users.

That quarantine, however, is also enlightening for advertisers. Not only do advertisements not appear on quarantined subreddits, but advertisers may find themselves dealing with angry crowds of users if they’re advertising a product those users dislike.

Especially given the current political climate, if the platform’s more extreme audience has a loose trigger finger, should we advertise through Reddit? The short answer is “yes.”

How You Can Deal with Trolls

All social media is going to attract people like those who frequent Reddit’s banned subreddits. It’s our responsibility to learn how to identify and deal with them.

Trolls typically express the following behavioral patterns:

  • They engage with content specifically to make the creator angry.
  • They will exaggerate their experience with a product or service.
  • Their grammar is frequently poor (or looks to have been written by a bot).
  • They make ad hominem arguments against the content’s creator, not the content itself.

To deal with trolls that come at your content through Reddit or another forum, you can:

  • Establish a troll policy – How do you want your marketers to deal with offensive or aggressive comments?
  • Respond with facts – Don’t let trolls spread misinformation about your business. Make your position clear and readily available.
  • Block or ban repeat trolls.
  • Correct your mistakes publicly.
  • Build a supportive audience through the development of engaging and valuable content. 

Don’t let the trolls keep you from crossing an advertising bridge. Reddit, like other social media platforms, is responding to the problems of the modern moment. If your business is going to thrive, its advertisements need to do the same.

Image attribution: Daniel Krasoń –