January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018
Every year, Reddit produces a Transparency Report to provide users with information about the types of requests that we receive from third parties that want Reddit to disclose user data or remove content from the platform. Reddit takes the privacy of its users seriously. Reddit therefore insists on compliance with procedural requirements, scrutinizes requests and legal process for facial validity and legal sufficiency, and objects to process when appropriate.
This year, we will be sharing additional information with you about copyright removals, restorations, and retractions, as well as removals for violations of Reddit’s Content Policy and subreddit rules. Not only does this additional information increase transparency for our users, but it helps bring Reddit into line with The Santa Clara Principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation, the goals and spirit of which we support as a starting point for further conversation.
Reports for previous years can be found here.
Disclaimer: All reasonable care has been put into compiling the information provided in this report, however, given the volume of requests, our report may not be 100% accurate.
We believe that Reddit users have a right to know how their personal data is being managed by Reddit and how it is shared in response to legal requests from governmental and non-governmental parties. In this report, we have consolidated and summarized information about user data requests in 2018, including requests from governmental entities worldwide and civil subpoenas from private parties from within the United States (Reddit typically does not respond to non-U.S. private-party requests). The data presented includes information regarding the number of requests received, who submitted them, and how often we either complied or pushed back.
1. Governmental Requests
Reddit receives different types of governmental requests seeking user account information. Requests vary based on the specific case that the authorities are working on and the type of data that is relevant to their investigation. Requests can seek to preserve user account information as a part of an ongoing investigation, while officials seek to obtain a valid legal request for the production of user account information (“Preservation” requests). Requests can also seek the production of data in certain circumstances (“Production” requests). Law enforcement agencies can also request that Reddit immediately disclose of data related to an emergency situation where there is an imminent threat to public safety, or a person (“Emergency Disclosure Requests”).
Of the 752 requests submitted by governmental entities:
- 171 were requests to preserve user account information; and
- 581 were requests to produce user account information.
a) Preservation requests
In accordance with the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”), Reddit will only preserve user account information for a period of up to 90 days, and will not disclose the information to the government unless and until Reddit receives legal process. After the 90-day period specified above lapses, Reddit will purge the preserved data, unless Reddit receives an preservation extension request (at which point Reddit will preserve the account information for an additional period up to 90 days).
In 2018, Reddit received 171 preservation requests, a 116% increase over the 79 preservation requests received in 2017. Reddit complied with 91% of the preservation requests received.
b) Production Requests
When Reddit receives a request from a governmental entity to produce information, Reddit reviews the request to ensure it is consistent with ECPA (which governs when, and how, the government can obtain user account information from United States communications providers such as Reddit) and that is otherwise legally valid. If we determine that request is not legally valid, or if we consider the request to be overbroad or unclear, we will either ask the party submitting the request to modify or refine it, or we will challenge or reject it.
In 2018, Reddit received a total of 581 requests to produce user account information from both United States and foreign governmental entities (including Emergency Disclosure Requests which are discussed in further detailed below). This represents a 151% increase compared to the number received in 2017. Reddit disclosed user account information in response to 447 (77%) of these requests.
i) United States Requests (Non-Emergency)
In 2018, Reddit received 319 non-emergency pieces of legal process from United States governmental entities seeking the production of user account information (in the form of subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants). Reddit complied with 89% of these requests.
Below is a graph which represents the type of production requests received, and the extent to which we complied with each type. Reddit did not receive any orders to conduct real-time monitoring of a Reddit user’s communications in 2018.
ii) Foreign Requests (Non-Emergency)
In 2018, Reddit received 28 requests for the production of user account information from foreign governmental authorities (excluding emergency requests). Reddit did not comply with any of these requests.
iii) Emergency Disclosure Requests
Under ECPA, United States and foreign governmental authorities can request voluntary disclosure of user account information in case of an emergency (such as imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person, or to the general public). These are known as “Emergency Disclosure Requests”. Reddit is permitted to disclose information if, in Reddit’s discretion, it has a good faith belief that disclosure is necessary to avoid the emergency.
In 2018, Reddit received a total of 234 Emergency Disclosure Requests, globally. Reddit disclosed user account information in response to 162 (69%) of these requests.
The number of Emergency Disclosure Requests received in 2018 increased by 470% from the number of requests received in 2017 (41).
United States Emergency Disclosure Requests
Of the total number of Emergency Disclosure Requests received, 207 were received from United States governmental authorities. Reddit disclosed user account information in response to 146 (71%) of these requests.
Foreign Emergency Disclosure Requests
Reddit received 27 Emergency Disclosure Requests from foreign authorities. Reddit disclosed user account information in response to 16 (57%) of these requests.
Below is a graph which shows the countries from which the requests originated, and the extent to which we complied with such requests.
While governmental entities submit most of the requests for user account information that Reddit receives, private parties also issue requests for Reddit to disclose information for use in civil litigation and criminal defense proceedings. Usually in the form of a subpoena duces tecum, a criminal defense subpoena, or a court order in a civil case, these requests cannot compel Reddit to disclose the contents of user communications. This means that such requests may only require Reddit to disclose the following information:
- Basic account information, which includes incoming IP address logs, username, length of service, services used, any other subscriber identity (such as an email address), and payment information; and
- Transactional information, such as message headers and device/browser information.
Reddit regularly objects to, and seeks to narrow, private-party subpoenas seeking subscriber or transactional information that are not accompanied by a court order. Reddit also regularly objects to, and seeks to narrow, private-party legal process that seeks to unmask anonymous online speech.
In 2018, Reddit received 15 requests for private user information from non-governmental entities. This is an increase from the 5 non-governmental requests received in 2017.
As with governmental requests, Reddit attempts to notify the relevant user whenever we receive valid legal process that requires us to produce their information, and seeks to narrow, modify, or move to quash such requests, as appropriate. We provided user information in response to 7 (47%) of those requests because they were legally valid and the issuing party was able to resolve our objections.
Every day, millions of people around the world submit posts, comments, and other content to Reddit, and Reddit regularly receives legal requests to remove content from the site.
The following sections provide information on content removal requests (and, if applicable, content reinstatement requests) we received from:
- governmental entities and other civil legal demands, for reasons such as alleged violations of local laws;
- copyright owners regarding alleged copyright infringement; and
- users or Reddit administrators regarding violations of Reddit’s Content Policy.
1. United States Governmental Removal Requests (Non-Copyright)
In 2018, Reddit received a total of 1 request to remove content from a governmental entity in the United States. The request was for the removal of an image and a large volume of comments made underneath it for potential breach of a federal law. As the governmental entity did not provide sufficient context regarding how the image violated the law, did not provide Reddit with valid legal process compelling removal, and the request to remove the entire post as well as the comment thread appeared to be overbroad, Reddit did not comply with the request.
2. Foreign Governmental Removal Requests (Non-Copyright)
In 2018, Reddit received a total of 101 requests to remove or restrict access to content from 5 foreign governmental entities. Governments sent requests for various reasons, including that content was deemed illegal in their jurisdiction. Reddit scrutinizes each request and may reject a foreign removal request for different reasons, including that the request is overbroad or inconsistent with international law.
Where appropriate, rather than removing a post outright, Reddit may block the post from being accessible in a particular country. Finally, on review of the content, Reddit may have discovered a content policy violation and the information was subsequently removed pursuant to such violation.
Reddit’s response to these requests is outlined in the graph below:
3. Foreign Non-Governmental Removal Requests (Non-Copyright)
Reddit also receives many requests to remove content from private parties. Most of these requests can be evaluated under the Content Policy, but sometimes the request contains a formal legal demand that the content be removed because it violates the law in a non-U.S. country. (With limited exceptions, U.S. law protects Reddit from being treated as the speaker of content submitted by users.)
In 2018, Reddit received a total of 65 legal demands for the removal of content citing non-U.S. laws (not including GDPR requests). Examples include requests from private individuals, corporations, and social organizations for removal of content they believed to be defamatory, or otherwise asserting violations of privately held rights.
When Reddit receives removal requests for content that violates local law but is not against Reddit's Content Policy, Reddit may restrict the availability of that content in the country where it is alleged to be illegal.
Reddit complied in whole or in part with 10 of these requests. Access was restricted in response to 3 requests, with content being removed 7 times.
Our 2018 Copyright Notices report includes data on removal requests Reddit received from rightsholders for alleged infringement of copyrighted works. The report also includes data on content that was reinstated by reason of the original poster submitting a copyright counter notice or the rightsholder retracting its removal request.
a) Copyright Removals - Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Prior to 2018, each piece of content that was requested to be removed was counted as a distinct DMCA notice (e.g. if a single DMCA notice specified 50 pieces of content to be removed, it would count as 50 DMCA notices). This resulted in the DMCA notice numbers reported in previous Transparency Reports (i.e. in 2016 = 3,294 “notifications”, and in 2017 = 7,825 “notifications”).
In 2018, we have, for the first time, counted the number of DMCA notices as a single notice even though it may have identified multiple pieces of content to be removed.
In 2018, Reddit received 9,534 DMCA notices, which resulted in 26,234 content removals. In 2017, Reddit received 3,130 DMCA notices, which resulted in 4,352 content removals. In 2016, Reddit received 1,155 DMCA notices, which resulted in 610 content removals.
The number of notices Reddit received in 2018 more than tripled from the 3,130 DMCA notices (and the 7,825 removal requests) received in 2017, and increased by over 8 times from the 1,155 notices (and 3,294 removal requests) received in 2016. Moreover, in 2018, many more of the DMCA notices we received were “bulk” requests and on average, the amount of content reported per report increased by more than 6 times from the amount of content reported in 2017.
Below is a graph in which we have recalculated the DMCA notifications in previous years so you are better able to track the trends in notices received, and pieces of content removed.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) sets out the statutory procedure by which rightsholders report alleged copyright infringement. When Reddit receives a complete DMCA notice, it complies with the notice and removes the infringing content identified in the request. When Reddit receives an incomplete or invalid DMCA notice, it rejects the notice and declines to remove the content identified in the request.
Of the 9,534 DMCA notices received in 2018, Reddit complied with 7,253 and rejected 2,281. This reflects a 76% compliance rate for 2018. Reddit’s compliance rate for 2017 was 56%, and the compliance rate for 2016 was 19%.
Reddit rejects DMCA notices that are incomplete or invalid, and declines to remove the content. For example, Reddit may reject a notice that is incomplete or invalid for the following reasons (this list is not exhaustive):
- The notice does not include enough information about the reporter’s copyrighted work that they claim is infringed in the Reddit content;
- The notice describes an allegedly infringed copyrighted work that cannot be found in the Reddit content; or
- The notice confuses other issues for copyright infringement, such as privacy or harassment.
If a notice is incomplete or invalid, Reddit may reject the notice and request additional information from the reporter, in order to allow them a chance to complete their notice.
Reddit also considers whether the use of a copyrighted work identified in a notice may fall under an exception listed in the DMCA, such as fair use, and may ask the copyright owner who submitted the notice to consider the same.
Below are 3 examples of DMCA notices we rejected because they were incomplete or invalid:
- Example 1 - Works Not Found: In October, Reddit received several DMCA notices from a creator of certain photos and videos. These notices targeted Reddit text posts and comments which discussed the creator’s copyrighted works. The posts and comments did not contain any material that copied from the creator’s photos or videos, just text commentary about their perceived quality. Because the copyrighted works were not found in the targeted posts and comments, Reddit was unable to locate the alleged copyright infringement. For this reason, Reddit rejected the notices and declined to remove the content.
- Example 2 - Fair Use: In November, Reddit received a DMCA notice from a hardware retail chain. This notice targeted a Reddit post which displayed images copied from the company’s public-facing website. The post used these images to create a new image, the purpose of which was to parody the quality of the retailer’s customer service. Reddit determined that the use of the retailer’s images transformed the original work in such a way as to qualify as fair use. For this reason, Reddit declined to remove the content.
- Example 3 - Copyright Confusion: In August, Reddit received a DMCA notice from a marketing and advertising company. The company wanted Reddit to remove a post that mentioned the company by name in the post’s title. The post also asked for information about the company’s recent listings on a popular online job search board. However, this post did not include any copyrighted content, and the company’s notice described the alleged infringement as “defamation about my business.” The DMCA should only be used to report content when someone believes that their copyrighted work has been infringed, not in general takedown demands. Because the reported issue did not involve copyright infringement, Reddit rejected the notice and declined to remove the content. Reddit also provided the company with instructions on how to report the content for other issues, such as defamation, privacy, or harassment.
b) Counter Notices and Retractions
When Reddit removes content pursuant to a DMCA notice, Reddit sends a message to the user who posted the content. This message informs the user of the removal, and provides them an opportunity to submit a “counter notice” swearing their belief that the rightsholder’s notice is mistaken. The DMCA prescribes the statutory counter notice procedure, which results in Reddit reinstating the content unless the rightsholder files a lawsuit.
Reddit may also restore content that was removed as a result of a DMCA notice if the copyright owner who submitted the notice simply retracts their claim of copyright infringement.
Reddit complies with counter notices and retraction requests that are complete, and rejects those that are incomplete or invalid. In 2018, Reddit received a total of 7 counter notices and 2 retraction requests. Reddit complied with the complete counter notices and retraction requests, which resulted in 6 content restorations. Reddit had not received any counter notices or retraction requests prior to 2018.
- Counter Notices and Retraction Requests Received - 9
- Content Restored - 6
For the first time, we are reporting some baseline numbers regarding takedowns resulting from Content Policy violations. We believe that disclosing this information is an important step to helping our users better understand the context and scale of how our policies are implemented. Tracking and reporting this information also helps us improve visibility into trends on the site regarding overall trust and safety, so we may better respond to your needs. Accordingly, we are dedicating significant time and resources to build internal tools to allow us to more accurately track the number and types of Content Policy reports that we receive, and responses we take as a result.
This is a first step in an ongoing project that we plan to refine and iterate upon in future reports, so as to continue to increase transparency with you on content takedowns.
a) Pieces of Content Removed from Reddit
Reddit’s approach to content moderation is community-led. The vast majority of content removals on Reddit are executed within individual subreddits by subreddit moderators - volunteer users who are either self or community-appointed, and who are not Reddit employees. These removals are largely based on individual subreddit rules that are unique to each community and set by the moderators and communities themselves. While there may be overlap between enforcement of these rules and the Reddit Content Policy, moderator actions are entirely separate from removals done by Reddit administrators.
b) Content Policy Violation Reports Received: Actionable vs Non-Actionable
In contrast, the Content Policy is set by Reddit and governs all content and users across the platform, regardless of subreddit. It is enforced by specially trained Reddit employees.
Depending on the circumstances, users who violate the Content Policy may experience a variety of sanctions (“actions”) proportionate to the nature of the infraction.
For individual users, Reddit actions in response to violations may include the removal of violating pieces of content and/or account suspension (either temporary or permanent depending on the severity of the incident).
For moderators, Reddit has also set out standards in the Moderator Guidelines and failing to comply also has consequences, including, for example, loss of certain subreddit functionalities or moderator privileges. Finally, in the case of subreddits, if the community itself is not in compliance with our Content Policy or our Moderator Guidelines, then the subreddit may be quarantined or banned, depending on the scale or seriousness of the violations.
Although we receive a high volume of Content Policy violation reports, most are not “actionable,” meaning a violation has not actually occurred.
Number of Potential Content Policy Violations Reported Directly to Reddit: 221,116
The following represents the % of Actionable reports:
c) Actionable Content Policy Violations: Relative Volume by Rule Category
Not including reports for content classified as spam, the following represents a breakdown of the types of reports our team receives:
Whether applied against an individual account or an entire subreddit, actions taken by Reddit in response to Content Policy violations may be appealed. The appeals are evaluated by Reddit employees, and are either granted (reinstating an account / subreddit) or denied.
In 2018, the Reddit administrators received 44,416 appeal requests. Reddit granted 12,881 (29%) of these requests, and denied 31,535 (71%).