On Monday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman posted an open letter to employees, saying that the company does “not tolerate hate, racism and violence,” and that its “values are clear.”
But Ellen Pao, who was an interim CEO of Reddit in 2014, has something to say about that.
“I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long https://t.co/VN5XCiYp5g
— Ellen K. Pao (@ekp) June 2, 2020
Pao is referring to the pro-Trump subreddit The_Donald, which rose to notoriety during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections by posting conspiracy theories and racist content. The_Donald is still available on Reddit, though it’s a “quarantined” community due to “significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of Reddit’s rules against violence and other aspects of the .” When a community is quarantined, users need an extra click or tap to see it and it’s only available to users with a verified email address, among other, minor restrictions.
Pao wrangled with both Reddit users and the site’s management as she tried to curb abuse and harassment on the platform, and has resigned in less than a year. Huffman, who is a Reddit co-founder (but left following Reddit’s sale to Condé Nast in 2006), returned as CEO following Pao’s resignation.
Huffman, too, struggled to balance protecting free speech on the platform while moderating abusive content. Shortly after taking rein of Reddit again, he shut down a few abusive subreddits and waged a lengthy war with The_Donald, at one point even editing another user’s comment to make fun of that community. The_Donald was eventually quarantined over “content that encourages or incites violence,” but not until 2019.
Still, the quotes from Huffman’s open letter – which was posted as a reaction to the widespread U.S. protests against police brutality – are somewhat at odds with his comments from 2018, when he said that racism is “not” against the rules (though he later clarified that comment by adding that racism is “not welcome here”).
Major social platforms are currently struggling with moderating harmful and abusive content on their platforms. Twitter and Facebook have recently bumped heads over Trump tweets, with Twitter opting to flag or hide some from view (without removing them completely), and Facebook deciding to leave them be, prompting some dissent from employees.
Mashable has contacted Reddit for comment and we’ll update this article when we hear back.