Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has spoken out for the first time since stepping down as CEO last week, offering a rather disheartening message - that the online trolls are winning.
Pao herself was targeted on the site for attempting to shut down some of the more vile sections of Reddit, which is labeled as the "front page of the Internet."
"Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet," said Pao in an op-ed published in The Washington Post. "But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning."
The Internet is facing an ever-growing problem - how do we balance freedom of speech while protecting people from hate and targeted violence? While the Internet may be a great way to express our thoughts and feelings in a worldwide forum, that makes it the perfect way for people to also express violence.
So what exactly did Pao remove from Reddit to herself receive targeted harassment online? The first thing was her removal of revenge porn from Reddit, those nude images posted without the subject's consent specifically to humiliate them or get back at them, particularly after a messy breakup. She also removed discussion threads devoted to vilifying gays, African- Americans and overweight people, after which she received death threats and other forms of harassment in a rather high volume.
Now that Pao has stepped down as CEO, it doesn't mean that the fight against online harassment on Reddit is lost. New CEO Steve Huffman, who co-founded the company, has said that he would not overturn Pao's efforts to take down some of the harsher areas of the website.
The news comes after Pew Research Center conducted studies on the types of harassment that people are experiencing on the web.
"There's really two types of harassment," said Maeve Duggan, a researcher who co-wrote the report, in an interview with USA Today. "The first kind is general annoyance, it's name calling, people trying to embarrass others. Most people don't give it much credence."
The second type, however, is a little more sinister. It involves online stalking and even physical threats, and is often targeted toward women. One of the reasons that this type of harassment is becoming more of a problem is that people on Reddit can stay anonymous and say or do things that they would be much less likely to say or do if their real name was attached to their online personality.
Pao, however, has not lost all hope.
"In the battle for the Internet, the power of humanity to overcome hate gives me hope," she continued. "I'm rooting for the humans over the trolls. I know we can win."