Originally published on NYT – Media on 2020 06 29 by Mike Isaac https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/technology/reddit-hate-speech.html
Reddit, which was founded 15 years ago and has more than 430 million regular users, has long been one corner of the internet that was willing to host all kinds of communities. No subject — whether it was video games or makeup or power-washing driveways — was too small to discuss. People could simply sign up, browse the site anonymously and participate in any of the 130,000 active subreddits.
Yet that freewheeling position led to many issues of toxic speech and objectionable content across the site, for which Reddit has consistently faced criticism. In the past, the company hosted forums that promoted racism against black people and openly sexualized underage children, all in the name of free speech.
That has haltingly changed over time. In 2015, Reddit introduced anti-harassment policies. Later that year, it banned several subreddits that targeted black or obese people. In 2016, it rolled out additional anti-harassment measures and tools. It also took down forums dedicated to openly buying and selling drugs.
But the company’s executives have struggled in particular with how to handle “The_Donald” and its noxious content. Reddit said people in “The_Donald” consistently posted messages that incited harassment and targeted others on and off its site. That included racist and vulgar messages against Muslims, blacks and other minorities.
“The_Donald” has also heavily trafficked in conspiracy theories, including spreading the debunked “PizzaGate” conspiracy, in which Hillary Clinton and top Democrats were falsely accused of running a child sex trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington.
Reddit said that as of Monday, it was introducing eight rules that laid out the terms people must abide by to use the site. Those include prohibiting targeted harassment, revealing the identities of others, posting sexually exploitative content related to underage children, or trafficking in illegal substances or other illicit transactions.
While the site had already banned many of these behaviors, the latest changes take a harder line on speech that “promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability.”