500 Reddit moderators demand site must do more to fight racism in open letter

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote last week that the compan does not tolerate hate, racism, and violence on its platform

Adam Smith
Tuesday 09 June 2020 09:41 BST

More than 550 Reddit moderators, representing groups with 200 million users, have signed an open letter to CEO Steve Huffman calling on him to take action against racism on the platform.

The moderators who have signed include political or minority groups such as r/AfricanAmerican, r/BlackPeopleTwitter, and r/MarchAgainstNazis, as well as less political groups such as r/Nottheonion, r/oddlymesmerising, r/relationships, and many more.

Huffman published his own letter saying that Reddit does "not tolerate hate, racism, and violence, and while we have work to do to fight these on our platform, our values are clear.”

But the response from moderators calls out Huffman for “hypocri[sy] based on your long and well-recorded history of defending racism and white supremacy on this site,” and references Huffman’s sentiments from the past that “open racism and slurs are fine to post on Reddit”.

While Huffman said that there is a need for Reddit’s content policy to address racism, following the protests in the US and UK about the death of George Floyd, the moderators say that not enough has been done in his five year tenure as CEO. The moderators suggest that Reddit should:

  • Enact a sitewide policy against racism, slurs, and hatespeech targeted at protected groups.
  • Be proactive in banning hate-based communities
  • Be proactive in banning hate users
  • Reddit needs to hire more minorities / women, especially in leadership roles
  • Reddit needs to hire more community managers
  • Honor Alexis Ohanian's wishes to have his Reddit Board seat filled with a black candidate

Alexzis Ohanian was Reddit’s co-founder and executive chairman who stepped down on 5 June in order to “do the right thing”.

“I've resigned as a member of the reddit board, I have urged them to fill my seat with a black candidate, + I will use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate” Ohanian tweeted, as well as saying he would donate one million dollars to Know Your Rights Camp, a campaign which describes itself as raising awareness about self-empowerment and interacting with law enforcement run by Colin Kaepernick.

“Ohanian requested that his position be filled by a black candidate”, the letter reads, while demanding that “an announcement … be made on this decision in the next 3 months” so that it does not get “put off”.

"These continued statements that you hear us, that this is a priority, or that you are working on it are not enough,“ the letter ends. ”Steve, if you and Reddit genuinely care about the values of standing up to racism and hate, then you need to back it up with real action.“

Reddit moderators are not the only people who have responded negatively to Huffman’s letter. Former CEO Ellen Pao, who was harassed by Reddit users after she tried to enact new anti-harassment policies and eventually resigned said that the company is not doing enough to tackle racism.

“I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence,” Ms Pao said. “So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don't get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”

The subreddit “r/the_donald” is one for supporters of president Trump, but which has been criticised for abusive language and attempts to get political content onto the mainstream pages of Reddit such as r/All or on the home page.

This continued for such an extent that the company had to change its algorithm to stop any political content reaching the home page, as well as quarantining the subreddit for threats against law enforcement officers.

The Independent has reached out to Reddit for comment.

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