Reddit's CEO says racism is permitted on the platform, and users are up in arms

April, 2018
United States of America

Reddit's CEO Steve Huffman has found himself once again embroiled in a controversy surrounding his website’s policy on moderation.

In a Reddit thread announcing the platform’s 2017 transparency report findings, in which Reddit identified and listed close to 1,000 suspected Russia-linked propaganda accounts that have been banned, Huffman replied to a straightforward question about the company’s rules around hate speech, which is a verbal attack based on race, religion, or another protected class.

“I need clarification on something: Is obvious open racism, including slurs, against reddits rules or not?” asked Reddit user chlomyster. “It’s not,” Huffman, who operates on Reddit under his original handle “spez,” responded. Huffman elaborated on his point, adding:

“On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs. This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so. When users actions conflict with our content policies, we take action.”

Our approach to governance is that communities can set appropriate standards around language for themselves. Many communities have rules around speech that are more restrictive than our own, and we fully support those rules.

Nearly a decade ago, Huffman’s approach to hate speech mirrored that of other major social media platforms today, which is to ban it except in extremely narrow or uniquely circumstantial situations.

For instance, Facebook’s policies on hate speech are well-documented, and saying something racist will typically lead to some type of disciplinary action.

Other platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram all have hate speech policies as well that can result in suspensions or bans.

Whatever Huffman’s evolving approach on the topic, it’s Reddit users that seem to be the most directly affected by the proliferation of hate speech on the platform.

Source: The Verge