On Monday, Reddit announced the unveiling of a new feature that could make life for BuzzFeed and Gawker a little more awkward: embeddable comment threads. From now on, if media outlets want to use content from Reddit, they can embed comments from the site’s users directly in their stories, just as they have been able to do with Tweets.
As Reddit administrators noted in the comment thread following the announcement, this feature could do more than advance the Reddit brand. For years, Reddit users have accused Gawker and BuzzFeed editors of searching Reddit for interesting content, scooping it up, repackaging it, and publishing it without attributing either Reddit or the users who originally posted the content. The new embed feature won’t exactly keep websites from swiping content, but it will make their editors slightly more queasy about swiping content when a simple mouse click will allow them to post Reddit’s work directly onto their own site.
But Jacob Brogan, a research associate with Slate’s column Future Tense, worries that embeddable comments could come with a serious down side. Reddit’s comments can be retroactively edited after the fact by the person who wrote them, and those edits will show up on the embedded comments on other sites. Reddit users could notice that a news website has embedded one of his or her comments in a story, replace the original post with, say, racist or juvenile remarks, and watch as the news site now quotes his new, unpleasant sentiments. “Reddit’s much discussed racism and misogyny may become more visible than ever in the coming months,” Brogan warns.