Reddit CEO tells user, “we are not the thought police,” then suspends that user

Enlarge / Steve Huffman, cofounder and chief executive officer of Reddit Inc., listens during a Bloomberg Technology television interview in San Francisco in 2017.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Reddit user has found himself at the end of a week-long suspension—and from the look of his account, it might have come because he publicly shared a "direct message" exchange with Reddit CEO Steve "spez" Huffman over the platform's handling of hate speech.

Reddit has confirmed to Ars Technica that Huffman's conversation, as posted by user "whatllmyusernamebe" on Sunday, is legitimate. The conversation begins with Huffman responding to the question, "Why do you admins not just ban hate speech?"

spez: Our violent speech policy is effectively that.

whatll: I'd argue that hate speech should be banned with its own rule, separate from the violence policy. But thank you for replying.

spez: Hate speech is difficult to define. There's a reason why it's not really done. Additionally, we are not the thought police. It's not the role of a private company to decide what people can and cannot say.

whatll: But it *is* the role of a private company to decide what people can and cannot say *on [its] own platform*.

spez: I know what you're asking, but it's a nearly impossible precedent to uphold. It's impossible to enforce consistently.

When reached for comment, a Reddit representative declined to confirm whether the user's suspension was related to the sharing of this direct-message history. Ars Technica was able to reach the user, who goes by the name Zachary Swanson, on Monday. Swanson shared a screencap with Ars of the reason Reddit gave for suspending his account for seven days: "for harassment" was the listed cause, with no further clarification.

Huffman's logic appears to run counter to initiatives run by Reddit itself. The social media platform has a history of closing channels wholesale in the wake of controversies, particularly those that ran afoul of "harassment" rules in 2015. And Huffman's description of how companies define hate speech ignores the fact that many major online platforms in the West inform their users of firmly defined hate-speech rules, including Google (and its subsidiaries), Facebook (and its subsidiaries), and Microsoft (and its subsidiaries).

Before receiving the seven-day suspension, Swanson reminded members of one community about Reddit's occasional decisions to ban entire communities wholesale. "Remember Anderson Cooper's piece on /r/jailbait?" Swanson wrote. "Immediately banned. I say we start flooding news tip lines every time we see egregious hate speech that isn't being banned."

Original Article

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