Reddit CEO Steve Huffman made waves earlier this week by telling platform users that racism was not explicitly against site rules. Since then, the chief executive has clarified his position in an updated statement, saying today that "although racism is not against the rules, it is not welcome here." Huffman originally responded to a question about racism and racist insults in a thread about Reddit's 2017 Transparency Report, saying on Tuesday that Reddit's hate speech policy was more forgiving than other social media platforms.
"I try to stay neutral on most political issues, but this is not one of them," says Huffman in his statement to The Verge. The chief executive, however, remained firm on how to deal with racism on Reddit. "I think that the best defense against racism and other disgusting opinions, both on Reddit and in the world, is instead of trying to control what people can or can not say through rules, it is to repudiate these opinions in a free conversation. and empower our communities to do it on Reddit. "
Huffman's point of view, shared by some in Silicon Valley and ridiculed by others as incitement to harassment and hatred, is part of an ongoing debate about freedom of expression and moderation in technology platforms. Specifically, it is about how and to what extent technology platforms should be responsible and monitor what people say and do with the tools available to them in what are actually private spaces not protected by the First Amendment.
Reddit can not reasonably control all hate speech on its platform
As a logistical issue, Huffman goes on to say that moderating all Reddit by hate speech is a potentially impossible task. And he is right Reddit, like Facebook and other sites, may never be able to hire enough human moderators to control every speech that is loaded daily. That's why Facebook is increasingly looking for artificial intelligence to do the job, however defective that approach may be. Reddit does not have an internal AI team or a team of moderators of thousands of people. Instead, it depends on site administrators, special internal teams, and subreddit moderators to work together to monitor the subreddits to comply with Reddit rules and issue punishments when appropriate.
"When it comes to enforcing, we separate the behavior of the beliefs, we can not control the beliefs of the people, but we can control their behaviors." By chance, the communities dedicated [to] to the racist beliefs end up forbidden for violating the rules that we have about harassment, intimidation and violence, "Huffman says, referring to the prohibition of notorious subreddits dedicated to shame and fanaticism, among other abusive and hate communities that have been eliminated from the site during the last 10 years or so. Reddit users and critics of Huffman's approach here have questioned whether the use of a racial insult constitutes a behavior or a belief. You can make a strong argument that it is a behavior, one that represents a belief.
Even so, while Reddit's approach makes more sense on the surface than Facebook, YouTube or Twitter – all of which have had enormous difficulties with moderation in recent years – it raises questions about the management of their communities by the company. Reddit has clear lines about threats, violent language, doxxing and abuse and harassment, such as the exchange of non-consensual pornography. However, it does not have a system of three attacks, such as YouTube for dubious channels, for more direct surveillance subreddits. And, unlike Facebook and Twitter, Reddit does not take action against individual users about singular instances of hate speech. That is a decision both logistically and based on resources, since it is political, as Huffman has expressed. For example, Reddit prohibits self-promotion, but the use of a racial insult is allowed, if you say so on the right subreddit.
Huffman says the company's approach is evolving, as are Huffman's views on Reddit's moderation. (Almost 10 years ago, he thought that forbidding users to hate speech was a reasonable approach, a feeling he no longer believes). But it is clear that Reddit does not want to engage in divisive political debates with actions such as the prohibition of the Trump-focused subreddit. / The_Donald, in spite of racism and other dubious activities that are reproduced there and overflow to other parts of the site. Then, unless communities like these break Reddit's existing rules about harassment and violent discourse, they are here to stay.
Here is Huffman's full answer:
In the heat of an AMA live, I do not always find the right words to express what I mean. I decided to answer this direct question knowing that it would be difficult because it appears quite on Reddit. I would like to add more nuances to my answer:
Although the words and expressions to which it refers are not explicitly prohibited, the behaviors to which they often lead are.
To be perfectly clear, although racism is not against the rules, it is not welcome here. I try to stay neutral on most political issues, but this is not one of them.
I think the best defense against racism and other disgusting points of view, both on Reddit and in the world, is to try to control what people can and can not say through rules, to repudiate these views in a free conversation. and empower our communities to do it on Reddit.
When it comes to enforcement, we separate the behavior of beliefs. We can not control people's beliefs, but we can control their behaviors. As it happens, communities dedicated to racist beliefs end up banned for violating the rules we have about harassment, bullying and violence.
There are disgusting views in the world. As a result, these views can also exist on Reddit. I do not want there to be more in Reddit than I want to exist in the world, but I think that presenting a disinfected vision of humanity hurts us all. It is up to all of us to reject these points of view.
These are complicated issues, and we may not always agree, but I'm listening to your answers, and I appreciate your perspectives. Our policies have changed a lot over the years and will continue to evolve in the future. Thank you.