Image courtesy of Reddit

What We Learned from Reddit CEO Huffman’s AMA

'Let's talk content.'

Jul 16 2015, 9:08pm

Image courtesy of Reddit

Reddit, the largely influential link-sharing discussion site that describes itself as the "front page of the internet," put its foot down on what content it'll deem fit for approval and deletion in a July 16 Ask Me Anything session with the current CEO Steve Huffman.

Here's what's not allowed, according to Huffman. Changes that were contested recently are bolded (emphasis ours):

  • 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
  • Anything that harasses, bullies, or abuses an individual or group of people (these behaviors intimidate others into silence)
  • Sexually suggestive content featuring minors

The site has been in very hot water recently, when it enacted those two bolded policies to ban several subreddits it considered to be vectors for harassment. That caused an exodus of users to Voat, a competitor site, and launched a weeks-long harassment campaign that eventually prompted Ellen Pao, Reddit's former CEO, to step down.

Huffman announced the AMA session on Tuesday as a sorely-needed move toward better transparency—after all, the site employs 22,000 unpaid moderators to manage content that hits roughly 17 million views a month.

"I think we have an intuitive sense of what this means (e.g. death threats, inciting rape), but before we release an official update to our policy we will spell this out as precisely as possible," he wrote in the post.

The biggest question we pondered was whether board decided to ban subreddits in an attempt to soften the sharper edges of free speech for advertisers. After all, what sort of advertiser would want to play with a platform that allows for open fat-shaming, white supremacy and sexism?

When asked how much pressure there was to remove "ugly" content from the site in order to monetize it, Huffman answered, "Zero."

Other users asked specifically what subreddits were considered "offensive" and bannable. A popular gaming vlogger once panned the site for what he considered to be a selective policy; if Reddit was making strides to ban offensive subreddits, it should stick to it unconditionally. For instance, what makes /r/fatpeoplehate bannable but /r/coontown, a subreddit dedicated to spouting racist ideologies and pseudoscience, acceptable? It's pretty simple: any subreddit that incites a community to harass or actually harm will be banned. Thought crimes, however, are acceptable. Case in point:

"Sure. /r/rapingwomen will be banned. They are encouraging people to rape. /r/coontown will be reclassified. The content there is offensive to many, but does not violate our current rules for banning," Huffman wrote.

As of now the AMA session stands as a way for Huffman to iron out the exact language of the content policy changes while addressing user concerns at length. The actual policies haven't been set in stone yet.

"We won't formally change or policy until we have the tools to support it. Giving moderators better tools to deal with individuals is an important part of this process. Giving our employed community managers additional tools to assist the moderators is also required," he wrote.