Reddit removes chat room feature after one day due to site-wide bug

Remember how Reddit announced just yesterday that it was introducing built-in subreddit chat rooms? Yeah, never mind on that.

Alex Le, Reddit’s vice president of product and community, said on Thursday in multiple comments that the feature has been “rolled back 100%.” Le said that the platform “made several errors” in the process of releasing the function (called “Start Chatting”) and apologized for the confusion the rollout caused. One bug, in particular, caused the button to appear on all subreddits, even in the event it didn’t do anything when clicked or tapped.

“If you dismiss the banner in 3 communities where the feature is active on desktop web or android, then the small button you’re seeing appears on all communities. But importantly, for all support communities, the button does nothing. Your users could never enter chats for this feature even in the rare case they saw the button,” Le wrote. “We are actively fixing this now. The feature is being rolled back in a matter of a few hours and the button will be removed.”

The announcement comes after a slew of Redditors protested the introduction of the “Start Chatting” button to their communities. Reddit initially said that the feature would roll out to around 50 percent of SFW subreddits to start and that companies “particularly vulnerable to abuse” would not be included.

However, subreddit moderators were not given the opportunity to opt out and did not have oversight to run the chat rooms, according to their community rules, with the responsibility going to Reddit’s own administrators instead. A number of moderators protested Reddit’s approach and criticized it for putting subreddits, especially those that give voices to victims of sexual assault and other vulnerable communities, at risk by potentially opening up chat features to trolls and those eager to commit fraud or abuse.

“As Moderators, we are unpaid volunteers who work to build a community which reflects our values and vision,” wrote a moderator of r/AskHistorians in a message to Reddit admins. “In the past, we have always been promised control over shaping that community by the site Admins, and despite missteps at points, it is a promise we have trusted. Clearly we were wrong to do so, as this has broken that trust in a far worse way than any previous undesired feature the Admins have thrust upon us.”

A moderator of r/personalfinance and r/Debt also requested that both subreddits be removed: “We already have major problems with scammers using chat and PMs to swindle people who are already in financial crisis and we can’t even get Reddit to ban those people after repeated reports (not that it would be hard for someone to change accounts considering that it takes weeks or months for reports to be examined). Even our unofficial IRC chatroom is better moderated than anything that is possible on Reddit.”

Le stated that Reddit received largely positive feedback from early tests of the chat room feature. “Please keep in mind that many users are using the feature and enjoying it, and these people are not always the ones who will share their feedback in comment threads,” Le wrote.

His comment also notes that Reddit plans to alter Start Chatting’s interface to make the feature more distinct from its affiliated subreddit, and will allow moderators to remove the button from their communities.

Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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