Roll20 Co-Founder Faces Reddit's Wrath After Banning User from Roll20 Subreddit

It's a case of mistaken identity that might go down in history as a textbook example of poorly run PR. On Tuesday evening Reddit user u/ApostleO posted the following: "After 5 Years On Roll20, I Just Cancelled and DELETED My Account." What followed was a lengthy story that boils down to this: ApostleO was banned from the r/Roll20 subreddit by u/NolanT because he had a username similar to another previously banned user. When he inquired about the ban, moderators admitted that he wasn't the same person, but nevertheless upheld the ban because they found ApostleO's repeated inquiries about the ban "concerning."

You Have Been Banned from Participating in r/Roll20

In his reddit post, ApostleO noted that he doesn't frequently post on Roll20. Despite this, after one of his infrequent posts, he received the following message:

You have been banned from participating in r/Roll20. You can still view and subscribe to r/Roll20, but you won't be able to post or comment.

Note from the moderators:

You were banned from this subreddit approximately a year ago. We are banning your alternate account as well.

If you have a question regarding your ban, you can contact the moderator team for r/Roll20 by replying to this message.

Reminder from the Reddit staff: If you use another account to circumvent this subreddit ban, that will be considered a violation of the Content Policy and can result in your account being suspended from the site as a whole.

Understandably this concerned ApostleO, as he didn't want to lose his Reddit account, and he had spent a lot of time (and money) on the Roll20 platform. However, it's more than that -- this is a story about how a company is misusing the way that Reddit should work.

  • You can't just identify a user by a user name. In this case, ApostleO was banned from the subreddit because his name was similar to "ApostleofTruth." Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Reddit knows that many people have similar names.
  • You shouldn't have a subreddit moderated by the owners of a company. While it's not strictly against the rules, it operates in bad faith; it means that customers are essentially operating on a company forum without their knowledge, and it inhibits complaints and discussion.
  • You can't ban people just for having criticism of your platform. I mean, you can, but it benefits no one; your company doesn't benefit from the feedback of your customers and your customers feel alienated and angry.

What's more, when looking into this, ApostleO found out that ApostleofTruth wasn't even banned for a legitimate reason; they were simply banned for having some criticisms about Roll20. In this situation, Roll20 has been quietly using their subreddit as a company forum rather than an open venue for discussion.

Once You Anger the Internet...

"Coming in from r/all, my main takeaway here is to never piss off people for who one of their main hobbies involves aggressive and thorough note-taking." - u/Dick_Nation

Cross-posted to a dozen popular subreddits and now seen by thousands upon thousands of active users, ApostleO's post has gained a lot of traction. It isn't just that he was banned due to a case of missed identity; it's that the subreddit then decided to uphold the ban because they complained about it:

Hi Cory Owens, We had reached out to Reddit admins to confirm or deny whether or not the other account shared an IP address. However, this influx of messages-- particularly in response to a ban from a sub reddit where you have only posted twice-- has cause for concern, just as much as the initial belief of ban evasion.

It is due to this concern that we will be maintaining your ban from our sub reddit.

Regards,

Miles

What's even worse is that u/NolanT then wrote a response that was, well, somehow even worse. At the time of this writing, it is hovering at around 11,000 downvotes.

At Roll20 we have a lot of moderation happening with poor player-on-player or Game Master/player interactions. Something we've decided is that we are not Twitter, attempting to capitalize off the most amount of conflict that can be harvested for clicks. We want users who can get along with each other. When someone's response to a ban from an ancillary forum is essentially, "I will spend enormous effort attempting to burn down the store," we know-- from experience-- that they'll do the same thing to other users they dislike, and we'll be left cleaning up the mess and with a poor user interactions. While we aren't pleased to make the top of subreddits for a reason like this, we know this is a better long term decision.

What Does This Mean for Roll20?

The issue that arises here is that this very public display indicates that Roll20 isn't a platform that is interested in being criticized. It isn't a platform that values its customers -- as it's all too willing to throw them away -- and it regards any form of criticism as attack. Understandably, this has made people nervous about using the platform at all.

There are some suggested alternatives:

  • Discord has introduced new features which makes it functional for both video and audio, something that Roll20 never quite figuredout.
  • Fantasy Grounds provides a large number of systems in a similar environment to Roll20.
  • Tabletop Simulator can be used for things like RPGs as well as board games.

Ultimately this may not be something that causes many people to flee from the service, but it is still a good idea to know about alternatives. Even u/ApostleO admits tat he may have run a little hot-headed in retrospect, but the administration of Roll20 has shown where their priorities lie -- notably in stating clearly that they believe that banning him was the "better long term decision." As many users have looked back on the Roll20 subreddit, it appears as though they have become absolutely reluctant to hear any type of criticism, which is historically not indicative of a platform that will thrive.