At the online community Reddit, forum moderators–volunteers who are neither selected by nor employed by Reddit the company–are proposing a new set of rules that would allow users to submit self-promotional links and content for a small fee.
Though Reddit has built its reputation as an online Wild West, the startup, which closed a $50 million round last week, has been known for outright banning users who violate its community rules, which include submitting self-promotional content and manipulating votes. (Generally, the startup errs on the side of free speech. Case in point: In light of the celebrity iCloud hack last month, Reddit banned the thread that disseminated the leaked nude photos–not because of privacy violations but because of copyright laws.)
Instead of punishing users by banning them, the proposed “paygate” would give content creators looking to promote their own work the ability to pay so they can tag their submissions as “self promotional.” The proposal did not decide on any type of pay structure. Moderators, who would approve or reject any sponsored content, will decide whether or not their subreddits would opt into these changes.
Currently, the modnews thread is eliciting feedback from fellow users and moderators. However, there are questions of enforcement, with many noting the potential for abuse. One user characterized the changes as “a bloated over-complicated system.”
The volunteer moderators are responsible for enforcing spam rules and removing objectionable or off-topic links and comments. The startup notes “moderators have no special powers outside of the community they moderate and are not appointed by reddit,” so it seems unlikely they could implement such drastic changes, especially since it pertains to revenue, on their own. Fast Company has reached out to Reddit headquarters for comment.