In the wake of a seemingly neverending stream of controversy, Reddit co-founder and now freshman CEO Steve Huffman will host an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session this Thursday at 1pm PT to address the community’s concerns over what he calls the “dark side” of the web site.
Depending on how this goes, Huffman could be run out of town on the rails by an angry mob of Reddit enthusiasts.
“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,” Huffman writes in the Reddit post announcing the session.
Huffman is referring to “subreddit” communities on the site like /r/coontown and /r/rapingwomen, where racism, sexism, and general bad behaviour are their very reasons for being.
The continued existence of communities like these is considered a major impediment to Reddit’s growth, but the company’s always been gun-shy about taking steps to crack down on them, citing free speech concerns — a hot topic among Reddit’s most devoted users.
The goal of his AMA session, Huffman writes, is to present how Reddit, as a company, is thinking about its main values and to solicit feedback as it works to figure out a way forward — likely a way to preserve free speech while still supporting its ad-based business model.
“Neither [Reddit co-founder] 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,” writes Huffman.
Times have changed from the reign of former CEO Yishan Wong, who once wrote that “Every Man Is Responsible For His Own Soul” in response to these same issues, not long before leaving the company in November over a dispute with the board about office space.
Meanwhile, former CEO Ellen Pao, who resigned on Friday following the so-called Reddit Revolt over the firing of a popular employee, expressed thinking more in line with Huffman’s post when she said “it’s not our site’s goal to be a completely free-speech platform.”
Judging from the comments, Reddit users seem to be wary about the prospects of this AMA session actually having any kind of positive impact on the site, especially after former CEO Wong himself has accused Reddit leadership of setting Pao up to take the blame for changes they planned to make anyway.
At the same time, many worry that Reddit’s crackdown on controversial content will go too far.
In other words, tensions are high. If Huffman says the wrong thing here, there’s every chance this could go horribly wrong for Reddit.