While Reddit's management forced interim CEO Ellen Pao out after the popular online social network moderators and members revolted against her, the new CEO will not be rescinding her least popular decisions.
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, Reddit co-founder and new CEO Steve Huffman was asked if he'd bring back the subreddits, Reddit groups, that Pao has gotten rid of such as fatpeoplehate. This subreddit's name said it all; it was a site for people to mock overweight people. It was Pao's banning of this and other subreddits devoted to harassment and bullying, which caused the first explosion of hate towards her by Reddit members in June.
Creating a clear content policy is another of my immediate priorities. We will make it very clear what is and is not acceptable behavior on reddit. This is still a work in progress, but our thinking is along these lines:
- Nothing illegal
- Nothing that undermines the integrity of reddit
- Nothing that causes other individuals harm or to fear for their well-being.
In my opinion, FPH crossed a line in that it was specifically hostile towards other redditors. Harassment and bullying affect people dramatically in the real world, and we want reddit to be a place where our users feel safe, or at least don't feel threatened.
That said, Huffman went on to say, "I don't want to ever ban content."
Speaking specifically about Coontown, Huffman said, "I think our approach to subreddits like that will be different. The content there is reprehensible, as I'm sure any reasonable person would agree, but if it were appropriately quarantined, it would not have a negative impact on other specific individuals in the same way FPH does."
Huffman also said that popular employee Victoria Taylor, who had coordinated the AskMeAnything would not be brought back. It was Taylor's firing that led to the moderators' revolt, which eventually ended in Pao leaving the company. He explained, "I know she was well-loved by many moderators, and I'm very sorry at how everything played out. It could have been handled much better. However, she was let go for specific reasons, which I obviously will not share, and we will stand by that decision."
Statements like this have led some Reddit members to already wonder if the new boss is the same as the old boss, "How was his answer different from anything that came from Pao?" asked one. Another commented, "This guy is literally saying the exact same things as Ellen Pao, and people think this guy is responsible, and open."
So, what's the difference? One person wrote, "That's because it came from a woman, this is a man telling us this time."
For whatever reason Huffman is receiving more support from Reddit's largely young adult male audience than Pao ever did. For example, his comments aren't being down-voted into oblivion the way her remarks were.
Still, some Reddit members are receiving support for comments such as "Pao was a punching bag for the creation of Digg 2.0 [A once-popular social network like Reddit which when it tried to turn commercial lost its audience], and when Steve came in reddit took it as a win. We were played."
At least a few Reddit users are leaving for a new social network, Voat, where "you can have your say. No censorship."
Huffman has also announced some new changes, which do seem to be meeting with general approval. Perhaps the most important of these is that Reddit will be abandoning shadowbanning. With shadowbanning, administrators and moderators could set a user's account so no one could see their posts or comments. The idea was to block bots trying to promote a story. It was successful in this, but everyday users were also blocked from the site. Shadowbanning let users see what they'd written or posted, but it didn't let them know that no one else could.
Huffman said, "Shadowbanning is for spammers. ... Real users should never be shadowbanned. Ever. If we ban them, or specific content, it will be obvious that it's happened and there will be a mechanism for appealing the decision." At this time users are not informed that they've been shadowbanned, why they were shadowbanned, and there is no mechanism to appeal this decision.
Finally, Huffman insisted that "Ellen [Pao] was not used as a scapegoat. She stepped up during a time of crisis for Reddit, for which we were thankful. Things didn't go smoothly, for sure, but I will do my best to guide us forward."
It will be interesting to see what "forward" is for Reddit now.