back to article Reddit CEO U-turn: Site no longer a bastion of free speech – and stop posting so much hate

The CEO of message-board website Reddit has been in the job for a few days, and he's already causing some redditors to choke on their cheetos. In a posting on the site announcements page, Steve Huffman – cofounder of the website and new chief exec following the departure of the hugely unpopular Ellen Pao – said he will crack …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    reprehensible

    "(Hint, there are a lot of subreddits discussing reprehensible topics.)"

    Typical SJW tweet response to a list of non-illegal content:

    "dear me, how do they get away with this? There's free speech but aren't there also laws?"

    Too bad you Brits don't get to have free speech, it's quite nice, especially on the sites where it exists.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: reprehensible

      Free speech? Only if you are a god fearing white man maybe?

      You can be a white "Christian" and hurl abuse in the street at every gay & black person passing by and say they should be burnt at the stake. But I challenge you to put a prayer mat down at the site of 9/11 and start praying to Allah.

      Free speech? In your dreams.

    2. localzuk Silver badge

      Re: reprehensible

      Free speech is not an unrestricted right. It has limitations, even in the USA. No hate speech, no shouting "bomb" in a movie theatre, no threatening violence etc...

      You would do well to realise that the USA's "line in the sand" when it comes to free speech is only a very small distance from the UK's. Try posting a joke about bombing an airport on Twitter in the USA and you'll have the FBI breaking down your door...

      Maybe I'm weird in that I don't understand this ongoing attack against "Social Justice Warriors". Is it a bad thing that people want to improve the world around us by stopping attacks on women?

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        Re: reprehensible

        Better to be a warrior than a sheep.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: reprehensible

        Maybe I'm weird in that I don't understand this ongoing attack against "Social Justice Warriors". Is it a bad thing that people want to improve the world around us by stopping attacks on women?

        IME the "SJW" label is mainly used (amongst the less orally-frothy) to refer to those who fight for "justice", even when there is no actual injustice to fight.

        They're the kind of people who, rather than making the effort to actually do something to improve equality in real terms, will start twitter shit-storms over generally innocuous remarks; revelling in and glorifying the ruining of the lives of people, for single off-hand comments made in jest.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: reprehensible

        > Try posting a joke about bombing an airport on Twitter in the USA and you'll have the FBI breaking down your door...

        Interestingly, I think you will find that this is a very recent phenomenon.

        And your comment is symptomatic of the chilling effect on free speech in general.

        Translation: "Don't say things that people don't like, otherwise you will be physically harassed by armed officers from the government"

        I think that says a lot more about you and people like you than anyone else.

    3. Jedit Silver badge

      "Too bad you Brits don't get to have free speech, it's quite nice"

      In 2011 Reddit had to be pressured into removing a number of subreddits like r/jailbait for posting content that was legally classified as child pornography. If that's freedom of speech, you can keep it.

    4. Just Enough
      Headmaster

      Re: reprehensible

      The Register is free to voice its opinion of many subreddits. It finds them reprehensible

      Reddit is run by a private company. They have no obligation to defend "free speech". They are free to decide that some subreddits are reprehensible and say "not on our website".

      Anyone relying on a private company to uphold and define "free speech" is looking to the wrong people and has the wrong idea of what "free speech" is.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. LaeMing
    Happy

    Those valuations are, of course, in Internet Dollars (TM).

    (We need an I with a centre-stroke in unicode!)

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      an I with a centre-stroke in Unicode

      LaeMing, like this?

      Ɨ

      (See U+0197.)

      1. LaeMing
        Thumb Up

        Re: an I with a centre-stroke in Unicode

        Pretty good. Is there one with serifs at the top and bottom?

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: an I with a centre-stroke in Unicode

          U+738B? 王

          To rule them all, of course.

        2. Irony Deficient Silver badge

          Re: an I with a centre-stroke in Unicode

          LaeMing, in sans-serif Arial, no. (The unstroked I in Arial is sans-serif.) In a serifed typeface like Linux Libertine G, yes.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free speech - have we turned it back on again?

    "... an egregious violation of the Reddit rules, and an attack on the privacy of a member of the Reddit community."

    A subreddit's defense of the notorious troll Violentacrez. In which they and several other subreddits *censored* the Gawker reports about Michael Brutsch, who'd been viciously trolling all sides for years. Then followed by banning people who continued trying to post links to Gawker.

    If you don't like free speech when it goes against you, you can't scream bloody murder when somebody says Reddit isn't a free speech site.

  4. dan1980

    I am not a big fan of Reddit - to be honest I don't use it, nor do I really understand or give much thought to it.

    But, it's a site that, while it was created and developed by a certain group of people, it has been built by the community - by their participation and links and their content.

    Thus it will always be tricky to try and exert too much control over it. You can do it, of course, but to maintain the site and keep the contributors and visitors happy requires a delicate balance.

    What they need to do is create a clear code of conduct and terms of use and then stick to them. If that results in people jumping ship then that's what happens. If they want to prevent certain types of discussions from being on the site then that's their prerogative, but that's not without consequences.

    If it was me, I would simply leave it that illegal content is not allowed but any discussion may be had in a user-created sub-reddit. Simple. The guide for users and visitors is obvious: you can create a section to discuss whatever you want, however you want and can ban users from contributing if you like. But you do not get to complain about what someone else says in their own area, no matter how 'reprehensible' you consider it.

    If reddit are not going to allow unfettered (legal) free speech then they should provide clear instructions on exactly what is allowed and what is not. They don't have to do that, of course, but if they start taking down things based on their own discretion then soon enough people will stop posting controversial topics and will go elsewhere to do so.

    If that's what they want then fine, but they need to be clear about it.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I would simply leave it that illegal content is not allowed"

      ...and that's where it gets a bit muddy. I type something legal in my jurisdiction than later find out the server the content ended up on is in a jurisdiction where said content is illegal. That can happen in the US due to State law, never mind the can of worms when dealing with people all over the world.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Meh

    Not really thought about it before.

    Might visit it now

    Might not.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Not really thought about it before.

      Thanks for sharing.

    2. Lionel Baden

      Re: Not really thought about it before.

      exactly my standpoint as well !!

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. John Lilburne

      Re: Its either free speech or its not

      It doesn't become illegal it becomes a sewer pipe. The problem with the web is that it too easily forms echo chambers, what is OKish for a one off becomes heightened with repetition. Example I once worked the night shift on a rota, the position was one of the better paid in the company at the time. We had one female who did job, everyone that came by thought it funny to make some riske joke, this would go on for the entire 8 hours, each having their little 'humorous' comment, day after day. Effectively they made her working life hell. Ended when I came in to take over the next shift and found two guys in the work area staring at her. "Who are they" "Dunno" "How long have they been here" "About 30 minutes". "You two get the fuck out of here NOW!"

      subreddits are just like that. Day after day,. Each arsehole with something 'clever' on their mind. Each egging on the others to become more extreme until it becomes a collective cesspit of vile.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its either free speech or its not

        subreddits are just like that. Day after day,. Each arsehole with something 'clever' on their mind. Each egging on the others to become more extreme until it becomes a collective cesspit of vile.

        So don't go to those subreddits? No-one's forcing anyone, you know.

        If it were the job of someone at Reddit to go there and endure that, then maybe you'd have an argument (and an appropriate analogy), but they don't. The people that go there, including the mods, do so of their own volition.

        1. John Lilburne

          Re: Its either free speech or its not

          If they remained in their little box all would be fine. But they don't. Instead they come to believe that behaviour in their box is acceptable in the wider world. No one has a problem with them shitting in their own front room, its when the stuff leaks out under the door that we have a problem.

  7. Khaptain

    Its either free speech or its not

    You can't stop people hating anymore than you can stop them loving.

    In one sense it is good that people are able to vent their spleen as I imagine that it creates a kind of pressure release. If this option doesn't exist then that same pressure will probably be released elsewhere, ouch. When it's on the web at least we are aware of its existance and to some extent can take appropriate action. If everything gets pushed underground we simply blind ourselves.

    The PC brigade always seem to fail to realise that the idealistic world that they would like to create is an unbalanced place. Nature does not allow for unbalance....the stronger the PC brigade become the stronger the Non-PC brigade becomes..

    If anything, these forums and sub forums are merely a manifestation of the state of mind within a particular strata of contemporary society....it needs to be studied rather than banned.

    Again it's just another of contemporary societies problems that will not be resolved by brushing it away.

    1. DropBear

      Re: Its either free speech or its not

      Indeed. I strongly suspect that anyone attempting to exclusively cultivate "wonderful, creative, funny, smart, and silly communities" only will find it harder than creating a magnetic monopole. There's that pesky thing about no matter how small groups of people you study you grind up magnets, they keep developing opposing poles...

    2. Bloakey1

      Re: Its either free speech or its not

      <snip good stuff>

      "Again it's just another of contemporary societies problems that will not be resolved by brushing it away."

      I totally agree with you. Like any group of people in this type of fora it is a microcosm of society as a whole warts and all. Subsequently it has subgroups that will wind up, offend or otherwise appall other people.

      I have problems with lots of things such as people wearing nylon shirts, draylon trousers and tank tops along with a raft of other issues. My politics range from extreme left to extreme right depending on the issue to hand and the time of day / amount of alcohol consumed. I feel really uncomfortable about banning things because of the free speech issue, some of the things on that list are just beyond my comprehension and I feel a tad sullied by having read them. My logical acquired stance would be to let free speech run its course, my emotional stance would be to close the lot down.

      I think the old statement about opinions could be used here:

      "opinions are like arseholes, everybody has one and very few bare close inspection"

  8. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    Mirror, mirror on the wall - the internet.

    The great internet mirror reflects us back at ourselves through such media and not one of us likes 100% of everything thing that we can see in that reflection. If unfettered freedom of speech is what we want when gazing at the interwebs, then we must also accept there there will be some scars and blemishes in that reflection and that we are equally free to ignore them. But, those 'nasty' bits are parts of the whole reflected image - that is what we mustn't loose sight of. But, no, no, no, we want to sugar the pill, to pull the wool over our own eyes and stick our heads in the sand until the nasty stuff goes away. I would rather have the nasty comments visible, out there in the open, where I can chose to either reflect upon what they say, or choose to ignore them, than have them fester away in a hidden manner where they cannot be challenged. As ever it would seem that minority views are being allowed to distort the much bigger picture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mirror, mirror on the wall - the internet.

      How do you propose we stop these minority views from distorting the bigger picture? At the moment there is nothing to show the people who are looking that these are minority views and should be taken with a grain of salt.

      I have a friend who only reads sites from conspiracy theorists and similar people. When I try to counter with sites that refute his viewpoint he treats those sites as having the same amount of weight (or less) than his own.

      1. Scott Broukell

        Re: Mirror, mirror on the wall - the internet.

        @AC - Education and an open mind I suppose. If you don't take everything you witness on the web, or media in general, with a healthy pinch of said salt, then you will, as your anecdote would indicate, become very blinkered in your outlook on the world. There's no point in ignoring 'conspiracy' sites either, if you want to achieve a balanced view that is. In the main I find that a brief dip into some such 'conspiracy' site usually bolsters my contrary leanings, but then that probably has more to do with the way they present 'information', rather than the content itself.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wonderful, creative, funny, smart, and silly

    We business, we money money. Wonderful, creative, funny, smart, and silly - sell. Reprehensible - no sell, no good, we not like. We say they bad, we remove. We good.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stands to reason...

    There's no money to be made from freedom of speech.

  11. theOtherJT

    Head -> Sand.

    I still maintain that there's nothing to be gained by pretending that opinions, no matter if you find them repulsive, don't exist. I don't want to be part of a society that says "You may not think this". I'd like to be part of one that says "You should not think this" and that's a very different thing.

    If everyone is doing their jobs right - and I do mean _everyone_ from the politicians to the teachers to the parents to the friends and neighbours - then this sort of thing goes away on its own. I see these sorts of subreddits as a sort of social barometer. You can measure our success as a society by what is in them and how many people agree with it.

  12. Ken Mitchell

    "Free Speech" is only free when it protects speech that you don't like. If you only protect speech that you approve of, then you're just a fascist. Most leftists differentiate between "free speech" that they approve of, such as an Iraqi journalist throwing a shoe at George Bush. Speech that they do NOT approve of, like Major Garrett asking a "disrespectful question" about how Barack Obama is abandoning four Americans in Iran after his "historic nuclear deal" - heck, that's HATE speech and the speaker should be horsewhipped, shot, and burned alive.

    See the difference?

    1. John Lilburne

      You really don't understand this do you. "Free speech" means that you can say stuff and not get sanctioned by government for it. It doesn't mean that you get to write your message on my garden wall, or to yell it from my living room window.

      What amuses me about these whiners is that they bitch about government being overreaching and then want every web property to be a branch of government, complaining "censorship" whenever some says "take your shit, and piss off somewhere else".

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