At this point, it seems pretty incontrovertible to say that Reddit is going through some serious inner turmoil -- but at least the current and former CEOs seem to be on roughly the same page about how to handle it. In the wake of interim CEO Ellen Pao's ouster from the company last week, newly appointed CEO and site co-founder Steve Huffman defended Reddit's controversial new anti-discrimination policies on Tuesday, claiming the online community was never intended to be "a bastion of free speech." Huffman was joined in his assessment by former CEO Yishan Wong, who happened to have some more colorful language for describing the "white-power racist-sexist neckbeards" who oppose the changes.
Explaining Reddit's decision to keep in place a content policy meant to limit obscene or harassing posts, Huffman issued a statement this week acknowledging the differences between users' expectations for the site and the founders':
There has been a lot of discussion lately —on reddit, in the news, and here internally— about reddit’s policy on the more offensive and obscene content on our platform. Our top priority at reddit is to develop a comprehensive Content Policy and the tools to enforce it.
The overwhelming majority of content on reddit comes from wonderful, creative, funny, smart, and silly communities. That is what makes reddit great. There is also a dark side, communities whose purpose is reprehensible, and we don’t have any obligation to support them. And we also believe that some communities currently on the platform should not be here at all.
Neither Alexis nor I created reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen: These are very complicated issues, and we are putting a lot of thought into it. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for quite some time. We haven’t had the tools to enforce policy, but now we’re building those tools and reevaluating our policy.
Huffman also announced his decision to host an "Ask Me Anything" session on Thursday to outline the policy further. Just a few hours after his update, the new CEO was followed with a much lengthier comment from his predecessor -- and Wong wasn't so diplomatic, toward either Huffman or Reddit users.
Claiming that Pao actually might have been more inclined to uphold his own free speech policies instead of blocking garbage, Wong chided Redditors for essentially being hateful and then complaining about subsequently being reprimanded:
What all the white-power racist-sexist neckbeards don't understand is that with [Pao] at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism: she is literally Silicon Valley's #1 Feminist Hero, so any "SJWs" would have a hard time attacking the company for intentionally creating a bastion (heh) of sexist/racist content. She probably would have tolerated your existence so long as you didn't cause any problems [...] It would have been very principled - the CEO of reddit, who once sued her previous employer for sexual discrimination, upholds free speech and tolerates the ugly side of humanity because it is so important to maintaining a platform for open discourse. It would have been unassailable.
Well, now she's gone (you did it reddit!), and /u/spez has the moral authority as a co-founder to move ahead with the purge. We tried to let you govern yourselves and you failed, so now The Man is going to set some Rules. Admittedly, I can't say I'm terribly upset.
Reddit has made a point this year to step up its game and join other social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, in combatting harassing speech. As a special corner of the Internet where "open discourse" and hate speech already thrive, Reddit will look awful different when all the "white-power racist-sexist neckbeards" decide to go somewhere else with their discrimination -- and that doesn't sound so bad.