Reddit has a long history of allowing controversial subreddits to stay live, though it has implemented certain actions against them in the past, such as quarantining. Still, the site has historically dragged its feet about banning subreddits that many felt were in violation of site rules, in some cases allowing them to remain, and it has now stated that racist content is permissible.
Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman published the site’s 2017 transparency report in a post yesterday, detailing the site’s action against suspicious accounts, among other things. That aside for a moment, Huffman (posting under his account /u/spez) also responded to a question concerning the use of racial slurs, other “obvious open racism,” and whether they’re in violation of Reddit’s rules. The short response: no, they’re not.
Huffman originally posted a short paragraph, stating that Reddit targets behaviors, not beliefs. That didn’t sit well with many users who have expressed frustration about the site’s continually permissive attitude toward hate speech, those critics often clashing with others who say banning these users would be an attack on free speech.
A day and nearly 1500 negative karma later, Huffman updated his comment with a longer statement, saying he wanted to “add more nuance” to his response. “To be perfectly clear, while racism itself isn’t against the rules,” writes Huffman, “it’s not welcome here. I try to stay neutral on most political topics, but this isn’t one of them.”
Instead of banning racist content, Huffman says he believes we should “police their behaviors” and “repudiate these views in a free conversation.” He continues:
When it comes to enforcement, we separate behavior from beliefs. We cannot control people’s beliefs, but we can police their behaviors. As it happens, communities dedicated racist beliefs end up banned for violating rules we do have around harassment, bullying, and violence.
There exist repugnant views in the world. As a result, these views may also exist on Reddit. I don’t want them to exist on Reddit any more than I want them to exist in the world, but I believe that presenting a sanitized view of humanity does us all a disservice. It’s up to all of us to reject these views.