After Ellen Pao resigned as Reddit's CEO, co-founder Steve Huffman stepped into her place. He says the popular site will now lay out clear boundaries for eliminating and banning offensive and abusive content, something Reddit hadn't clearly laid out for users before. While many other sites have clear terms of service when it comes to bullying and harassment, like Facebook and Twitter, Reddit's decision brings up an interesting debate over what constitutes free speech. 

Steve Huffman's AMA lays out the new terms of service. He states, 

Reddit is a place to have open and authentic discussions. The reason we’re careful to restrict speech is because people have more open and authentic discussions when they aren't worried about the speech police knocking down their door. When our purpose comes into conflict with a policy, we make sure our purpose wins.

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. Earlier this year, Reddit took a stand and banned non-consensual pornography. This was largely accepted by the community, and the world is a better place as a result (Google and Twitter have followed suit). Part of the reason this went over so well was because there was a very clear line of what was unacceptable.

Therefore, today we're announcing that we're considering a set of additional restrictions on what people can say on Reddit—or at least say on our public pages—in the spirit of our mission.

These types of content are prohibited [1]:

  • 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)[2]
  • Sexually suggestive content featuring minors

There are other types of content that are specifically classified:

  • Adult content must be flagged as NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Users must opt into seeing NSFW communities. This includes pornography, which is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.
  • Similar to NSFW, another type of content that is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it, is the content that violates a common sense of decency. This classification will require a login, must be opted into, will not appear in search results or public listings, and will generate no revenue for Reddit.

We've had the NSFW classification since nearly the beginning, and it's worked well to separate the pornography from the rest of Reddit. We believe there is value in letting all views exist, even if we find some of them abhorrent, as long as they don’t pollute people’s enjoyment of the site. Separation and opt-in techniques have worked well for keeping adult content out of the common Redditor’s listings, and we think it’ll work for this other type of content as well.

In my measly opinion--feel free to agree or disagree below--banning offensive and abusive content or speech at a company is not an infringement upon free speech as a whole. I think there's a huge difference between someone leaving a passionate response on a forum, and full-on harassment. Let's be honest, there are some down right creeps online. 

Cyber-bullying can have terrible consequences. In some extreme cases, online harassment has pushed victims as far as committing suicide. Here are six unforgettable cases revolving around cyber-bullying for reference. 

An individual company might in some cases still be held liable for someone else's speech even if the company has clauses in its terms of service agreements stating otherwise. Therefore, companies should be allowed to ban or limit any speech they want. This Bloomberg article titled, Where Free Speech Goes to Die: The Workplace, states there is no First Amendment right protecting free speech in the WORKPLACE. And while Redditors aren't exactly employees, Reddit still has the right to kill free speech under the same reason.  

As for Reddit banning offensive content like non-consensual porn--the AMA above states Reddit is only doing so because the community wanted it to. Reddit is simply responding to market demand. 

Now, if the Supreme Court took away our rights as American citizens to free speech, this would be an entirely different story. But that's not what is happening. Reddit is simply deciding as a COMPANY to clean up its forums and make the Reddit experience more enjoyable for everyone based on market demand. 

What do you guys think? Should Reddit continue to move forward with its plan to eliminate offensive and abusive content or should it go back to letting users post whatever they want? Sound off below. What constitutes free speech to you?

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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