Reddit published its 2017 transparency report yesterday and the comments below the post drew Reddit CEO Steve Huffman into a conversation about whether “open racism” is permitted on the platform.
“I need clarification on something: Is obvious open racism, including slurs, against reddits rules or not?”, asked one Reddit user.
Steven Huffman, posting under the username “spez,” responded to the member’s comment by stating “It’s not. On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs. This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so. When users’ actions conflict with our content policies, we take action”.
Huffman then went onto state “Our approach to governance is that communities can set appropriate standards around language for themselves. Many communities have rules around speech that are more restrictive than our own, and we fully support those rules”.
Huffman’s comment has been downvoted 1,469 times at the time of writing.
Other commentators responded to Huffman questioning “Why should I put reddit back on my whitelist when you continue hosting this sort of stuff here? (link removed).”
Another user posted a comment made by Huffman 9 years ago “This isn’t any change in policy: we’ve always banned hate speech, and we always will. It’s not up for debate”.
One of the most popular threads of the day on The Donald, a popular subreddit which has been a target of much of the criticism directed at Huffman, is a meme suggesting it’s contradictory to expect private companies to “serve everyone no matter what” while suggesting Facebook “has every right to delete conservative content [because it’s] a private company”.
It’s one of a number of instances recently where CEOs overseeing platforms which host content generated by third-parties have been questioned on how they define hate speech and whether they plan to police it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned by Congressman Hudson yesterday on how he would define hate speech.
“That’s a very important question and one that we struggle with continuously,” said Zuckerberg.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey meanwhile hosted a live Q&A on Periscope last month, in which he stated coming up with a metric to address the problems of “safety abuse, misinformation and manipulation” is Twitter’s “number one priority as a company right now”.
He was also questioned on whether Twitter will continue to be a platform for free speech, to which Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Safety lead, responded “…the distinction we’ve tried to draw…is [between] behaviour violating our policies versus is this a viewpoint we might agree or disagree with”.
Gadde also went onto say “I know we are very much accused of censorship and bias” and that she believes its important Twitter “constantly assesses [its] work”.
She also referred to Silicon Valley and Twitter as a place where “a lot of employees…have particular political views,” a viewpoint which was reaffirmed by Zuckerberg yesterday who stated “[Silicon Valley is] an extremely left-leaning place”.