Last week it was Facebook that decided, after several advertisers quit, that it was time to clamp down on offensive speech. This week Reddit appears to be making a similar move, perhaps hoping to be the next target of activists. Not surprisingly, the largest target of the new approach was a pro-Trump subreddit called “The_Donald” but the site also banned a smaller subreddit connected to the socialist Chapo Trap House podcast:
Reddit, one of the largest social networking and message board websites, on Monday banned its biggest community devoted to President Trump as part of an overhaul of its hate speech policies.
The community or “subreddit,” called “The_Donald,” is home to more than 790,000 users who post memes, viral videos and supportive messages about Mr. Trump. Reddit executives said the group, which has been highly influential in cultivating and stoking Mr. Trump’s online base, had consistently broken its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech.
“Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people,” Steve Huffman, the company’s chief executive, said in a call with reporters. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”
Reddit said it was also banning roughly 2,000 other communities from across the political spectrum, including one devoted to the leftist podcasting group “Chapo Trap House,” which has about 160,000 regular users. The vast majority of the forums that are being banned are inactive.
All of this comes as Reddit introduces a new set of rules designed to ban hate speech:
“I have to admit that I’ve struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company’s values around common human decency,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a call with reporters…
“Reddit’s mission is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world, and there is speech in the world and on Reddit that prevents other people from doing so,” Huffman told reporters. “Harassing speech or hateful speech prevents people from coming to Reddit and feeling safe and sharing their vulnerabilities … So if we have speech on Reddit that’s preventing people from using Reddit the way that we intend it to be used, or that prevents us from achieving our mission, then it’s actually a very easy decision.”
Earlier this month, Huffman put out a statement supporting Black Lives Matter. But the company’s former CEO attacked Huffman saying “You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.” She specifically said Huffman should have “shut down the_donald.”
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 resigned as CEO of Reddit in 2015 after what became known as the ‘Reddit revolt’ over the firing of an employee who was popular with the site’s users.
Also today, YouTube announced it was banning a number of white supremacists including Richard Spencer and David Duke:
YouTube has banned several prominent white supremacist channels, including those belonging to Stefan Molyneux, David Duke, and Richard Spencer.
Other channels banned include American Renaissance (with its associated channel AmRen Podcasts) and the channel for Spencer’s National Policy Institute. The channels repeatedly violated YouTube’s policies, a YouTube spokesperson said, by alleging that members of protected groups were inferior. These come alongside other violations that led to YouTube taking action.
I understand that private companies are free to regulate themselves as they see fit. But the banning, at least in the case of Reddit, is going to affect a lot of people who aren’t white supremacists. This seems like a move that could hand even more power to those who see cancel culture as a positive approach to dealing with disagreements over politics. There is a real danger of going too far and chilling free speech throughout the virtual public square, but as usual the left doesn’t seem to see it so long as the right is on the receiving end. How many of the journos who mourned the collapse of Gawker are going to be quietly cheering for the banning of The_Donald?