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Reddit CEO Steve Huffman Is Cracking Down On Hateful Content

The site’s new content policy doesn’t stray too far from measures that were already in place–but it will better enforce them.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman Is Cracking Down On Hateful Content
[Photo: Flickr user Eva Blue]

Steve Huffman, cofounder and new CEO of Reddit, held an “Ask Me Anything” session on Thursday discussing the site’s new content policy.

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In his AMA, Huffman introduced guidelines that will limit hateful speech and harassment, along with spam, illegal activity, personal information, and sexual content involving minors.

Today we’re announcing that we’re considering a set of additional restrictions on what people can say on Reddit—or at least say on our public pages—in the spirit of our mission.

These types of content are prohibited [1]:

  • Spam
  • Anything illegal (i.e. things that are actually illegal, such as copyrighted material. Discussing illegal activities, such as drug use, is not illegal)
  • Publication of someone’s private and confidential information
  • Anything that incites harm or violence against an individual or group of people (it’s ok to say “I don’t like this group of people.” It’s not ok to say, “I’m going to kill this group of people.”)
  • Anything that harasses, bullies, or abuses an individual or group of people (these behaviors intimidate others into silence)
  • Sexually suggestive content featuring minors

Huffman also noted in the AMA that some types of content will be “specifically classified” rather than banned. Pornography and other NSFW content falls into this category, as does what he vaguely describes as “content that violates a common sense of decency.” This type of content, Huffman says, “will require a login, must be opted into, will not appear in search results or public listings, and will generate no revenue for Reddit.”

In keeping with these new standards, Reddit will be banning a subreddit dedicated to raping women, but will only be reclassifying the infamous /r/coontown forum, which is known for spewing racist vitriol. Huffman’s reasoning? “The content there is offensive to many, but does not violate our current rules for banning.”

Overall, the new rules don’t seem to stray too far from measures that were already in place. The harassment clause, for example, is similar to what former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao introduced back in May. Reddit’s goal of strictly enforcing these guidelines, though, sounds tricky: The company will likely struggle to determine what type of content should be flat-out banned rather than reclassified, and vice versa.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Pao discussed her embattled tenure at Reddit, and wondered how to champion free speech on the Internet when hate speech and harassment are so prevalent:

The Internet started as a bastion for free expression. It encouraged broad engagement and a diversity of ideas. Over time, however, that openness has enabled the harassment of people for their views, experiences, appearances or demographic backgrounds. Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet. But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning.

Read Huffman’s AMA in full over at Reddit.

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