Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has found himself embroiled in a controversy surrounding his website’s policy on moderation. In a Reddit thread announcing the platform’s 2017 transparency report findings, in which Reddit identified and listed close to 1,000 suspected Russia-linked propaganda accounts that have been banned, Huffman replied to a straightforward question about the company’s rules around hate speech, which is a verbal attack based on race, religion, or another protected class.
“I need clarification on something: Is obvious open racism, including slurs, against reddits rules or not?” asked Reddit user chlomyster. “It’s not,” Huffman, who operates on Reddit under his original handle “spez,” responded.
Huffman elaborated on his point, adding: “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.”
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.
It’s a controversial approach, to say the least, and it has many Reddit users outraged that communities like the Trump-centric r/The_Donald are allowed to walk up to and over the line of racism repeatedly without any site action. Many Reddit users responded to Huffman by pointing out that hate speech does constitute behavior in a way, and that communities like r/The_Donald directly participated in the conversation and organizing of events like the Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacist rally that resulted in Heather Heyer’s death. This conversation around Reddit’s light moderator has been simmering for quite some time, boiling over most recently last month when the company discussed its approach to Russia propaganda.
I think aside from Russian interference you need to give a thorough answer explaining what the logic is here, linking to specific Reddit threads filled with anti-Muslim hate speech on the Trump-centric subreddit. You are literally letting users spread hate speech and pretend it’s politics in some weird sense of free speech as if it’s okay and nothing bad is happening.