Video showing a doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight shot to the top spot on Reddit, sparking thousands and angry comments.
Then, just as quickly, it was gone from the site entirely.
For those who haven’t yet seen the video, it shows a doctor being dragged from his seat by what appears to be the airline’s security officers. Passengers noted that the flight had been overbooked, but that the man refused to leave because he was on his way to see patients.
“He told the police and the United employees he had to be at the hospital in the morning to see patients,” passenger Tyler Bridges tweeted.
Bridges added that other passengers had to be cleared off the plane so the blood could be cleaned from aisles.
United Airlines offered something of an apology but did not address the man directly.
“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” the airline said in a statement to WHAS. “We apologize for the overbook situation.”
The video’s disappearance from Reddit has sparked outrage on the link-sharing site and accusations that the fifth largest website in the United States is practicing a bit of corporate censorship. In the wake of the controversial decision, a handful of other subreddits have taken up the issue.
One subreddit — Reddit’s name for a message or image-sharing board dedicated to a specific purpose — called r/HailCorporate took note. In a post that garnered tens of thousands of user votes, many commenters tore into Reddit for what was seen as an act of censorship.
Although the incident has sparked outrage, it seems that the real answer may be more complicated. To start, there is no clear relationship between United Airlines and Reddit. In the past, other stories regarding United controversies have reached the front page of Reddit without being deleted, so it would seem strange that Reddit decided to take action to help a corporation that it hasn’t protected in the past.
As a moderator of the r/videos subreddit — where the original video was posted before being deleted — explained, the original submission actually violated some clear-cut rules.
“If you are wondering why the posts of the United video where police forcibly remove the man featured in this post were removed from /r/videos, it is because the video breaks both rules 4 and 9 of the subreddit,” wrote moderator confirmedzach, linking to rules barring videos of police harassment and assault.
If there somehow was a plot on the part of Reddit to suppress the video, it hasn’t worked. The video of the doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight has gone viral regardless. Several passengers caught the incident on cell phone cameras, showing the doctor yelling as he was physically pulled from his seat.
It would also seem curious that if Reddit censored video to protect a corporation that may or may not even have a relationship with Reddit, the site wouldn’t delete other threads that were highly critical of Reddit itself. If the site could enact censorship to protect a different company, why not do the same for itself?
Reddit’s decision to delete the video of the doctor being dragged of a United Airlines flight may not have lasted long. Within an hour, a follow-up video showing the bloodied man returning to the flight was posted and again shot to the top of the Reddit front page. A moderator noted that the second video, which did not show police brutality or outright assault, fit the subreddit’s rules and would remain.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]