Reddit CEO Says Keeping Explicit Content on the Site Is a ‘Constant Fight’

Steve Huffman said in an announcement that starting July 5, Reddit will "limit access to mature content via our Data API."
Reddit app on a phone screen. Getty Images
Getty Images

In an announcement on Friday, Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman said that the platform will soon limit access to mature content through its API, adding that it’s a “constant fight” to keep explicit content on the platform. Huffman was responding to a question in which a user asked why Reddit was going to stop making it possible to access NSFW content on third-party apps, meaning it may soon be impossible to view porn on unofficial apps.


In April, Reddit announced that it would start charging for access to its API, which businesses, research organizations, and developers use to build tools and examine data without using the official Reddit app or website. 

“Effective July 5, 2023, we will limit access to mature content via our Data API as part of an ongoing effort to provide guardrails to how explicit content and communities on Reddit are discovered and viewed,” Huffman wrote under his u/spez username on Friday. “This change will not impact any moderator bots or extensions.” 

Moderators, especially, rely on third-party apps to do unpaid, volunteer work keeping Reddit’s hundreds of thousands of communities running. With the news charges, third-party app developers will have to start paying exorbitant fees to stay up; the administrators of one of the biggest third-party apps, Apollo, said that it would cost them $20 million a year to stay online, and announced that they plan to shut down because of these fees.

Hundreds of major subreddits across the platform, some with tens of millions of followers, are planning a blackout on June 12 in protest of these changes.

In response to Huffman’s update thread on Friday, one user asked Huffman why he plans to restrict NSFW content from third party apps. 

“It’s a constant fight to keep this content at all,” he said. “We are going to keep it. But the regulatory environment has gotten much stricter about adult content, and as a result we have to be strict / conservative about where it shows up.”

This change shouldn’t impact what’s visible on the official Reddit app, but for anyone still using third-party apps or accessing the API for research purposes, it’s another blow—and Huffman’s admission that platforms face regulatory pressure when it comes to adult content is telling of the increasing hostility against adult content that platforms face from banks, legislators, advertisers, and moral crusaders.

In May, anti-porn lobbyists that consider all adult content exploitative set their sights on Reddit’s numerous NSFW communities, accusing Reddit of not doing enough to prevent abuse and urged the platform to “ban users who upload sexually explicit material.” Reddit strengthened its policies against non-consensual image sharing last year. Many sex workers use Reddit as a place to share safety information and as a place to cultivate communities of fans, and a large number of Redditors use the platform for harm reduction, kink and fetish community building, and as an outlet for protected sexual speech. 

Reddit’s announcement comes after multiple social platforms have cracked down on explicit content in recent years—most recently, image sharing platform Imgur’s decision in April to wipe all porn from its service.