Even as Redditors rejoice the resignation of former CEO Ellen Pao, who was harassed for trying to clean up the site of its offensive content, Reddit is not about to let everyone post everything and anything they want.
Reddit's new CEO Steve Huffman, who helped found "the front page of the Internet" in 2005, is coming back after a six-year hiatus to continue Pao and her predecessor Yishan Wong's work on policing the content on the website.
Prior to hosting an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session about Reddit's new content policy, Huffman shared a blog post that detailed what Redditors can and cannot say on the website, and Reddit starts by cracking down on bullying, harassment and abusive content and any content that incites people to harm others or commit a crime.
More specifically, Huffman cites a subreddit called Raping Women as the type of content that will be banned, as the content is one that is "encouraging people to rape." However, Huffman draws a line between content that can be offensive to some but does not call for illegal activities or encourage people to hurt others. He calls it "content that is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it."
For instance, a subreddit called Coon Town falls in the first category, and Huffman says it will be reclassified with a Not Safe For Work (NSFW) warning. Also, subreddits like this will require people to log in with their Reddit accounts and opt in to see the posts, while people outside of Reddit will not see the content appearing in search listings. Huffman also says Reddit will not generate revenue from content such as this.
"No company is perfect at addressing these hard issues," he says. "We've spent the last few days here discussing and agree that an approach like this allows us as a company to repudiate content we don't want to associate with the business, but gives individuals freedom to consume it if they choose."
If the hate speech continues, Huffman says Reddit will have to employ "more aggressive" measures to curb the posting of illegal and harmful content on the site.
Other types of content that will from now on be under the watchful eye of Reddit's administrators include spam, doxxing or publication of someone else's private information without their consent and sexually suggestive material featuring minors. Pornography in itself is not banned, but Reddit is reclassifying it as NSFW, which means users must opt in if they want to see such kinds of content. Tagging content as NSFW is not new in Reddit, and Huffman thinks "it'll work for this other type of content as well."
Asked how much of the cleanup can be attributed to Reddit's desire to monetize its community, Huffman said there was none. However, in a lately published op-ed piece for the Washington Post, Pao says for Reddit "to attract more mainstream audiences and bring in the big-budget advertisers, you must hide or remove the ugly," an assertion that Huffman denied.
Still, critics pan Reddit for what they believe to be a half-baked approach against hate speech. Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent figure harassed online by the Gamergate community, slams Huffman for justifying the hate speech on the site by saying Reddit will not make money from it.
"New Reddit CEO is doubling down on maintaining sections of the site dedicated to hate speech by simply hiding them from advertisers," Sarkeesian says.
Photo: Eva Blue | Flickr