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Reddit takes stand against “unfettered free speech”

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Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian speaks onstage during TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2015 - Day 3 at The Manhattan Center on May 6, 2015 in New York City.Photograph by Noam Galai — Getty Images

Reddit is clamping down on controversial content.

The popular website’s CEO Steve Huffman fielded questions on Thursday in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) about what content is and isn’t allowed on the popular online bulletin board, amid a controversy over the company’s alleged content policing and lack of transparency.

“As Reddit has grown, we’ve seen additional examples of how unfettered free speech can make Reddit a less enjoyable place to visit, and can even cause people harm outside of Reddit,” Huffman wrote.

 

In addition to non-consensual pornography, which Reddit banned officially earlier this year, the following types of content are being “considered” for restriction, Huffman wrote in the AMA:

  • Spam
  • Anything illegal (i.e. things that are actually illegal, such as copyrighted material. Discussing illegal activities, such as drug use, is not illegal)
  • Publication of someone’s private and confidential information
  • Anything that incites harm or violence against an individual or group of people (it’s ok to say “I don’t like this group of people.” It’s not ok to say, “I’m going to kill this group of people.”)
  • Anything that harasses, bullies, or abuses an individual or group of people (these behaviors intimidate others into silence)
  • Sexually suggestive content featuring minors

Huffman also told users that several notorious, offensive subreddits—the “really dark side” of Reddit, as some have said—would be banned, including a thread about raping women.

The clarification of Reddit’s free speech limits, and, perhaps more importantly, the audience-facing, participatory way in which the restrictions were explained, arrive after months of user complaints over Reddit administrators’ lack of transparency when policies are changed.

Much of the community’s anger had been directed at former interim CEO Ellen Pao, who last week stepped down as chief after hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition calling for her ousting. Though Pao acknowledged the company’s lack of communication with users, she maintained her belief in restricting certain content in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday, writing that she is “rooting for the humans over the trolls.”