In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao says that the “balancing act” between free expression and safety is “getting harder,” and “the trolls are winning.”
“Reddit is the Internet, and it exhibits all the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Internet,” writes Pao.
Over the past several months, Reddit took steps intended to protect users these past few months, including banning revenge porn, setting up a code of conduct that banned harassment, and shutting down “sections of the site that drew repeat harassers.”
Pao and Reddit’s leadership team were met with death threats, promises to post online information, and other harassing messages, she writes.
“This isn’t an easy problem to solve. To understand the challenges facing today’s Internet content platforms, layer onto that original balancing act a desire to grow audience and generate revenue,” Pao writes.
Relying on humans for moderating and policing online communities is risky, Pao writes, because humans make mistakes, and mistakes lead to distrust — and there would probably be a lot of mistakes made, at Reddit’s massive scale. But if you rely on automated moderation, a human element is lost.
“No one has figured out the best place to draw the line between bad and ugly — or whether that line can support a viable business model.”
In the meanwhile, Pao encourages people to call out online harassment wherever they see it. Pao says that after her own experiences — she resigned from the company last week following the so-called Reddit Revolt — people started responded to the trolls on Reddit giving her a miserable time with their own messages of support and compassion, making a lot of difference.
“In the battle for the Internet, the power of humanity to overcome hate gives me hope. I’m rooting for the humans over the trolls. I know we can win,” Pao writes.
You can read Pao’s whole post here.