Reddit is a total fucking mess, but the new boss is laying down the law. The site’s CEO Steve Huffman opened a traditional Ask Me Anything session this afternoon with a fairly non-traditional type of announcement. Or at least it’s non-traditional for Reddit because CEO Steve is banning specific types of content.
It all makes sense. The types of content that are now banned on Reddit are banned on most internet websites where a civil discourse could be expected:
• 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
Harassment and child pornography and revenge porn and doxxing: These are all very bad things. They’re also types of content that were already not tolerated by Reddit moderators. However, It should be noted that it was ultimately up to the moderators to police their states, and until recently, specific types of content weren’t necessarily banned. Illegal content like child pornography, of course, was banned by the government.
Not all indecent content will disappear from Reddit, though. CEO Steve also laid out some guidelines for marking NSFW content as such, invoking one United States Supreme Court definition of obscenity to describe how porn will be treated (“You know it when you see it.”) Additionally, anything tagged NSFW that is deemed “content that violates a common sense of decency … will require a login, must be opted into, will not appear in search results or public listings, and will generate no revenue for Reddit.” So that will hopefully help advertisers chill out about all of the swill that’s long been out in the open on Reddit.
But this is Reddit we’re talking about here. CEO Steve’s announcement comes two weeks after Reddit freaked out over the firing of its AMA coordinator, sparking a firestorm of discussion over vile content and the firing of former Reddit chief Ellen Pao. There was bound to be a reckoning and time will tell whether this will fuel an exodus of free speech-loving Redditors, or a bright future with a Reddit that’s not full of abusive garbage that smells like misogyny.
The more assertive move to ban all types of harassment and hate speech is inevitably a way for Reddit’s new leadership to justify the shuttering of Subreddits that it considers abusive. This is bound to piss of aforementioned free speech-loving Redditors. After all, “Anything that incites harm or violence against an individual or group of people” is a pretty open-ended sentence. Some might even call it lip service.
The AMA is on-going, but we’re watching for reactions from the community. So stick around. This is gonna get messy.
Illustration by Gizmodo