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Reddit CEO: Site Is 'Not a Bastion of Free Speech,' Change Coming 581

An anonymous reader writes: Reddit's new CEO, cofounder Steve Huffman, has made a statement regarding the site's controversial racism- and abuse-related community "subreddits." He said, "we don't have any obligation to support them." In the brief announcement, Huffman explains that a robust content policy is something they have "been thinking about for quite some time" and is in the cards in the near future. It has also come to light via former CEO Yishan Wong that ousted interim boss Ellen Pao was one of the few defenders of the controversial subreddits, favoring a strategy of coexistence over the board's plan to eliminate problem communities. Wong blames another co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, for strategy changes that led to the firing of "Ask Me Anything" administrator Victoria Taylor whose unexpected absence crippled that component of the site.
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Reddit CEO: Site Is 'Not a Bastion of Free Speech,' Change Coming

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  • No Free Speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:30AM (#50116315)

    Means no more page views from me. I really enjoyed the idea of a site that managed to keep the racists corralled into their own little playpen while the adults had quality discussion.

    • Re:No Free Speech (Score:5, Informative)

      by dugancent ( 2616577 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:52AM (#50116457)

      Then you haven't been to reddit. What you are asking for has NEVER been the way that site works.

      • Re:No Free Speech (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo.world3@net> on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @10:02AM (#50116591) Homepage

        To whoever modded the parent -1 Troll: the moderation system is not your personal disagree button. If you disagree, post. Make your case, explain your disagreement. Moderation is supposed to be factual, and the parent is clearly not a troll.

        Don't ruin Slashdot. Moderation is what makes it great, use the power responsibly.

        • by Falos ( 2905315 )
          GParent: Yes it is.
          Parent: No it isn't.
          Reply: [pending]

          Are you requesting what I think you're requesting?
        • Re:No Free Speech (Score:5, Insightful)

          by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @01:13PM (#50118391)
          Limits to moderation is what makes Slashdot great. Look at Reddit where everyone can essentially moderate at all times and it's an utter mess.

          Slashdot's system works as well as it does because the site's creators realized that people will not be responsible with the system and it's far better to design a moderation system that accounts for that rather than assuming that people will be on their best behavior.

          Also, plain text makes implication and inference difficult on the internet, which can lead to inappropriate moderation. If you or I were to make a sarcastic or facetious post, and someone with mod points completed missed the sarcasm, they very well may believe it's a troll or flame; or someone else makes a post that we think is off-topic only because we don't get the reference.

          That's why the only reasonable way is to browse at -1 and just accept that we'll have to scroll past a few comments that aren't worth reading.
        • by zieroh ( 307208 )

          Moderation is supposed to be factual

          You must be new here. Moderation at Slashdot has never, ever, ever resembled what you describe.

    • I wonder how much, if any, of this is actually a personal reaction to the site's evolution; and how much is simply the decision that the bad press (Reddit: Nastier than StormFront!) needed to stop and it was time to monetize the better neighborhoods harder than in the past. Clearly the popular AMA coordinating employee didn't get sacked for bad performance in doing things as they had previously been done, which certainly suggests that change was in the air even before the real fuss started and Pao left.
  • For an alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Yosho ( 135835 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:31AM (#50116319) Homepage

    If you're interested in a Reddit-like site that won't arbitrarily close your subreddit and shadowban you because they don't like what you're talking about, voat.co [voat.co] is shaping up pretty nicely.

    • by Krojack ( 575051 )

      If you're interested in a Reddit-like site that won't arbitrarily close your subreddit and shadowban you because they don't like what you're talking about, voat.co [voat.co] is shaping up pretty nicely.

      Not yet anyways. Once they get big enough and popular outside groups will start putting pressure on them to close various subs.

      Also I have yet to see voat. It's always down when I go there.

    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      If you're interested in a Reddit-like site that won't arbitrarily close your subreddit and shadowban you because they don't like what you're talking about...

      ...for now. However once it gains enough mass and becomes a sufficiently large enough target, then things might change. As they have with Reddit.

      • by Yosho ( 135835 )

        However once it gains enough mass and becomes a sufficiently large enough target, then things might change. As they have with Reddit.

        And if it does, then people can move somewhere else. I don't see the point in staying somewhere where you know you might be banned on a whim for stepping out of line because you're afraid of another place that could possibly become that way sometime in the future.

  • Obligations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:40AM (#50116365) Homepage

    "we don't have any obligation to support them."

    Nor do the redditors have any obligation to keep visiting the site.

    This isn't about obligations, it's about ethics.

    • Re:Obligations (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo.world3@net> on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:59AM (#50116539) Homepage

      If it's about ethics then I don't see a problem with no supporting /rFatPeopleHate. It's not like they are being silenced, Reddit just declined to offer them a free platform for their content, following their own ethical code.

      There is a difference between defending someone's right to say what they like, and actually setting up a soapbox for them. There are people I'd never help spread their message, but I wouldn't want the government to ban them from saying it either. Freedom of speech does not imply an obligation to facilitate other's speech, or listen to it.

    • "we don't have any obligation to support them."

      Nor do the redditors have any obligation to keep visiting the site.

      This isn't about obligations, it's about ethics.

      I don't see how one can construct an argument that puts "fatpeoplehate" on the proper side of ethics.

    • This isn't about obligations, it's about ethics.

      It is absolutely about ethics. The question is, is it more ethical to preserve unencumbered freedom of expression on your site or to prevent a radical few from using your platform to harm others?

      If you're prepared to blurt out an answer as though it were obvious, you haven't given it enough thought. Ethics is a subtle and complicated subject, and there are many situations where different ethical standards must come into conflict.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:44AM (#50116405)

    How about adult subreddits? Fetishist subreddits? Political subreddits that you might find offensive, such as Men's Rights? Religious subreddits that you probably find offensive, like Scientology? Do we ban vaccine deniers and conspiracy theorists? People that talk about piracy?

    In Reddit's quest to become mainstream, it has lost something.

    • The drug-dealing subreddits are still open too. I'd imagine. Allegedly. So I was told. By someone I don't know. Nevermind, such a thing doesn't exist and if it does I don't know about it! Now leave me alone.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Their policy appears to be to ban subreddits that are actively harassing people. Discussion is fine, posting stolen pictures of fat people from social media, or stolen celebrity photos from iCloud, or organizing raids, or doxxing people is not.

      Can you really not see a difference between saying "disgusting obese people should do more to control their fucking weight" and posting a photo of an obese person take from their Facebook page (copyright infringement) along with a torrent of abuse purely designed to s

      • by dwpro ( 520418 )

        2 things:

        Their policy appears to be to ban subreddits that are actively harassing people.

        That policy seems to have been implemented unevenly enough that the justification is questionable.

        posting stolen pictures of fat people from social media

        if you post a photo to social media and someone that's been given access to see the photo shares it, that's not 'stealing' in my book.

  • Hmmm Huffman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:47AM (#50116411)

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/02/reddit-co-founder-alexis-ohanians-rosy-outlook-on-the-future-of-politics/3/ [forbes.com]

    Speaking of the founding fathers, I ask him what he thinks they would have thought of Reddit.

    "A bastion of free speech on the World Wide Web? I bet they would like it," he replies. It's the digital form of political pamplets.

  • As long those changes reflect the values of Jesse Jackson and Hillary Clinton.

    Thank you, Reddit-man!

    • Nobody says the people who wish to express different values can't do it. Reddit is just saying it's not their job to provide the platform for it.

      By all means, start your bigoted trolls and crazy people website. I'm sure it will be very popular.

      Do you think Reddit somehow has a responsibility to provide a venue for such things?

      It is your right to be as bigoted and offensive as you choose to be. It isn't your right to have someone provide you the platform, or to have it be free from consequences.

  • by vivaoporto ( 1064484 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @09:48AM (#50116427)
    A more complete summary of the situation below, based on a rejected submission of the same story [slashdot.org].

    Reddit policy to be updated, CEO says site was not created "to be a bastion of free speech"

    After a string of dramatic events like the removal of the Fappening [slashdot.org] and FatPeopleHate [slashdot.org] subreddits, the dismissal of Victoria Taylor and the subsequent AMAgeddon [slashdot.org] culminating in the resignation of the former CEO Ellen Pao [slashdot.org], the recently returned Reddit CEO and site founder Steve Huffman announces that a comprehensive Content Policy and the tools to enforce it [reddit.com] are currently in development motivated in part by the media and internal repercussion of "the more offensive and obscene content" on their platform.

    Mentioning without specifying some communities "whose purpose is reprehensible" and disclaiming that they "don't have any obligation to support them" the CEO announces an AMA (Ask me Anything) next Thursday 1pm where they "as a community need to decide together what our values are".

    The CEO states that "Neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen.".

    In a top comment in the announcement [reddit.com] a site user refutes this claim point to a Forbes article from 2012 where Ohanians, answering a question of what the founding fathers would think of Reddit, replies: "A bastion of free speech on the World Wide Web? I bet they would like itâ [forbes.com]. Alexis himself, in a Google Plus post from 2012 [archive.is] (archived version), says that he is "really, really proud of these quotes".

    • The CEO states that "Neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen."

      [not] a bastion of free speech, but...open and honest discussion

      Wow! Steve's gonna want some Tylenol after all the cognitive dissonance!

      • by FreeUser ( 11483 )

        The CEO states that "Neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen."

        Wow! Steve's gonna want some Tylenol after all the cognitive dissonance!

        Yup! Double-plus ungood.

    • "Neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen.".

      I don't think you can have "open and honest discussion" without free speech. That seems like a necessary prerequisite.

    • by fwarren ( 579763 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @10:55AM (#50117133) Homepage

      "as a community need to decide together what our values are".

      I am pretty sure that is the same kind of "community" that Mark Shuttleworth had. We vote on everything and we all have a voice. Till he moves the window controls from the top right hand side (windows style) to the top left hand side (mac os style). The community voted to move them back. At which point Mark said he listens to community input but ultimately it is his decision.

      The board of directors at Reddit have decided what their values are, and the new CEO has agreed with them to get the job. Now they will do an AMA where they put forth as many of their values as possible in such a way that it looks like the community came up with them. The remaining values they will Mark Shuttleworthed on the community.

      Thank you for playing.

    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @12:22PM (#50117931)

      Some other great reading: [reddit.com]

      "We're a free speech site with very few exceptions (mostly personal info) and having to stomach occasional troll reddit like picsofdeadkids or morally quesitonable reddits like jailbait are part of the price of free speech on a site like this."

      -/u/Hueypriest Comment [reddit.com]

      "We stand for free speech. This means we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it. Not because that's the law in the United States – because as many people have pointed out, privately-owned forums are under no obligation to uphold it – but because we believe in that ideal independently, and that's what we want to promote on our platform. We are clarifying that now because in the past it wasn't clear, and (to be honest) in the past we were not completely independent and there were other pressures acting on reddit. Now it's just reddit, and we serve the community, we serve the ideals of free speech, and we hope to ultimately be a universal platform for human discourse (cat pictures are a form of discourse)."

      -/u/yishan Gawker article + interview [gawker.com]

  • Site builds large user base.
    Site gets some VC money and thinks they can make a profit.
    Site realizes they need to make changes but changes cheese off the majority of it's user base and they go elsewhere.
    Site becomes a ghost town.

    Remember Fark? Remember Digg? This is what will happen with Reddit. First they came for the fatties, and I didn't care because I don't have condishons. Then they came for the racists and I didn't care because I'm not racist. But then they came for the rest of the site and

  • by eepok ( 545733 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @10:05AM (#50116607) Homepage
    I hate the idea of major sites like Reddit, Fark, etc. giving up what made them popular: being a sanctuary for people to communicate things as they see fit. But I also accept that once an online community becomes sufficiently large, they will need to:

    (1) Bring in revenue to support the people maintaining the site and to pay for the hardware/bandwidth required to actually have a site to support.
    (2) Those who provide revenue will impose requirements upon the site that will erode what previously defined the community.
    (3) When a community gets sufficiently large, they attract people who weren't part of the original concept and they will demand to be catered to. This will require further erosion of the community's core principles to facilitate because, since revenue's needed, those managing the community must make everyone feel welcomed.
    (4) Be ready for lawsuits from people who do not accept the original principles, but want to be part of the community regardless.

    This happens with ALL communities and this looks to be Reddit's semi-collapse. Reddit won't die-- not by a long shot. But many will leave and what made Reddit most distinctive from other sites will be watered down. That's called death by success.
  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by xenotransplant ( 4179011 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @10:09AM (#50116653)
    Does Reddit have power to amend the constitution? No? Then why are you all crying? You can still speak all the hate you want to elsewhere on the internet. Heck you could even do it in public, you cowards. Go outside and talk to other humans, you'll be interested to know that most of them are not going to put up with your bullshit.
  • I think we all know where I'm going here...

  • "We don't have any obligation to support them" - but do you have an obligation to remove them? How about this: don't fuck with the content unless it's a legal liability, something like child porn. (Providing it, not just discussing it.)
  • So much for "an open conversation about race."

    Although the process usually involves butt-hurt, every once in a while, you DO get someone who hates [group] (blacks, Republicans, gays, Christians, whatever) to moderate their viewpoint (and often become an advocate within their community) after ENGAGING them in an open forum like reddit or Slashdot.

    In fact, that's the whole principal behind America, the UN, etc. - let's TALK it out in public rather than wall ourselves off in a bunch of isolated bomb-throwing c

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday July 15, 2015 @10:48AM (#50117071) Journal

    And here's Alexis Ohanion, in 2012, calling Reddit... yes.... "a bastion of free speech". [forbes.com]

    I wonder how high they had to stack the bags of money to get this sort of backpedaling?

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian

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