It’s finally out – Steve Huffman, u/spez on Reddit, has revealed himself to be the Nazi he looks like. He has admitted that he’s fine with racism on Reddit. Nine years ago, it was a different story:
This isn’t any change in policy: we’ve always banned hate speech, and we always will. It’s not up for debate. You can bitch and moan all you like, but me and my team aren’t going to be responsible for encouraging behaviors that lead to hate.
A few years later, when Huffman stepped in as CEO after Ellen Pao was pushed out of the position due to virulent sexism and racism, he had changed his views:
“While my personal views towards bigotry haven’t changed, my opinion of what Reddit should do about it has,” Huffman wrote on the topic nearly three years ago, a few weeks after he had returned to lead the company. “I don’t think we should silence people just because their viewpoints are something we disagree with. There is value in the conversation, and we as a society need to confront these issues. This is an incredibly complex topic, and I’m sure our thinking will continue to evolve.” – The Verge
In 2018, Huffman is singing a considerably different tune:
“On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs,” said Huffman under his username spez. “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.”
Hoffman’s controversial response explains why outwardly racist and high-profile communities have been allowed to operate on a site that has 542 million monthly visitors.
“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,” Hoffman said.
Reddit’s approach to offensive behaviour has evolved from a position of actively banning users for hate speech to one allowing it under the guise of free speech. – The Guardian
While the words and expressions you refer to aren’t explicitly forbidden, the behaviors they often lead to are.
To be perfectly clear, while racism itself isn’t against the rules, it’s not welcome here. I try to stay neutral on most political topics, but this isn’t one of them.
I believe the best defense against racism and other repugnant views, both on Reddit and in the world, is instead of trying to control what people can and cannot say through rules, is to repudiate these views in a free conversation, and empower our communities to do so on Reddit.
When it comes to enforcement, we separate behavior from beliefs. We cannot control people’s beliefs, but we can police their behaviors. As it happens, communities dedicated racist beliefs end up banned for violating rules we do have around harassment, bullying, and violence.
These are complicated issues, and we may not always agree, but I am listening to your responses, and I do appreciate your perspectives. Our policies have changed a lot over the years, and will continue to evolve into the future. Thank you. – Slate
What does this say about Reddit and social media in general? Most other platforms – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube – have taken a hard-line stance against hate speech. While I don’t agree with any censorship, when it comes to social media that influences today’s youth, perhaps something ought to be done to ban racial & sexual slurs, at the very least. As for violence, Reddit has not been doing a particularly good job of keeping that off the site at all. Just have a look at some of the more toxic communities there and you will see what I mean.
Visit r/AgainstHateSubreddits for more details. There are all sorts of calls for violence to various individuals and groups, such as former president Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, liberals, Blacks, Jews, American soldiers, Parkland High School shooting survivors, and transgenders, to name a few.