Reddit is trying to recover from its month-long meltdown, which resulted in interim CEO Ellen Pao stepping down from her role at the company.
Now, Reddit’s new CEO Steve Huffman issued a “content policy update” on the website, stating that “some communities currently on the platform should not be here at all.”
The overwhelming majority of content on reddit comes from wonderful, creative, funny, smart, and silly communities. That is what makes reddit great. There is also a dark side, communities whose purpose is reprehensible, and we don’t have any obligation to support them. And we also believe that some communities currently on the platform should not be here at all.
Neither [Reddit cofounder] Alexis [Ohanian] nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen: These are very complicated issues, and we are putting a lot of thought into it. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for quite some time. We haven’t had the tools to enforce policy, but now we’re building those tools and reevaluating our policy.
As some Reddit users have already pointed out, this sentiment is completely contradictory to many earlier comments from Huffman and Ohanian.
In a 2012 interview with Forbes, Ohanian was asked what the Founding Fathers would have thought of Reddit: “A bastion of free speech on the World Wide Web? I bet they would like it,” he said.
Similarly, a Reddit blog post from 2012 addressing the banning of sexual content featuring minors said “we are adamant about not limiting the ability to use the Reddit platform even when we do not ourselves agree with or condone a specific use.”
More from that post:
We understand that this might make some of you worried about the slippery slope from banning one specific type of content to banning other types of content. We’re concerned about that too, and do not make this policy change lightly or without careful deliberation. We will tirelessly defend the right to freely share information on reddit in any way we can, even if it is offensive or discusses something that may be illegal. However, child pornography is a toxic and unique case for Internet communities, and we’re protecting reddit’s ability to operate by removing this threat. We remain committed to protecting reddit as an open platform.
Though Huffman’s content policy update contradicts the historical stance of the company on free speech issues, Huffman says he will host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Thursday, July 16 at 1 p.m. PST “to present our current thinking to you, the community, and solicit your feedback.”
So far, Reddit users don’t seem happy about the announcement. In response to one particular statement from Huffman — “We as a community need to decide together what our values are” — one Reddit user had this to say:
I think that’s an absurd statement, the kind of corporate speak that alone will destroy this website. You’re asking a community of people, who come from numerous communities from all ends of the spectrum (many whom hate each other), and asking them to establish common values? That’s amazing, why haven’t the warring nations of the world, ethnic groups pledged to destroying each other, and all people everywhere agreed to do that? They can’t.
People are already beginning to leave Reddit for other sites, including a new platform that looks and works just like Reddit called Voat. As such, Reddit and Huffman will need to plan their next moves very carefully. While Reddit is still a company that must meet certain demands, it risks out on losing millions of eyeballs that may never return.