As the story of notorious Reddit user Violentacrez and the controversial subreddits he moderated sinks its tentacles into the greater internet, Reddit administrators–known for their laissez-faire attitude toward site moderation–have remained astonishingly mum. In conversations with Betabeat, Reddit general manager Erik Martin gave little indication as to how Reddit intends to handle the Violentacrez and Creepshots fracas, except to admit that two of the subreddits had been banned by admins.
But a thread published by Reddit CEO Yishan Wong, posted to a private subreddit for moderators and obtained by Gawker, sheds some light on Reddit’s intentions toward the controversial content on its platform:
We stand for free speech. This means we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it. Not because that’s the law in the United States – because as many people have pointed out, privately-owned forums are under no obligation to uphold it – but because we believe in that ideal independently, and that’s what we want to promote on our platform. We are clarifying that now because in the past it wasn’t clear, and (to be honest) in the past we were not completely independent and there were other pressures acting on reddit. Now it’s just reddit, and we serve the community, we serve the ideals of free speech, and we hope to ultimately be a universal platform for human discourse (cat pictures are a form of discourse).
As Gawker notes, Mr. Wong did not mention Violentacrez by name in his note, nor did he directly address the myriad issues surrounding controversial subreddits like Creepshots. Instead, he reiterated the policies established following last year’s shuttering of the subreddit Jailbait, a forum for users to post sexualized photos of minors:
We will ban illegal content, and in addition sexualized pictures of minors, immediately upon any reports to us. We gave our rationale for that back when that issue was resolved, and we will maintain that policy for the same reasons.
This is where Reddit continues to draw the line: it will not ban sexist, misogynistic or racist content, but it will ban anything illegal, as well as images of minors that could be considered “sexualized.” That means Creepshots–however offensive it may be–is here to stay. This is because the vast majority of photos posted in Creepshots and its ilk are taken legally and–when moderated properly–do not break any of Reddit’s rules.
Oh, and Mr. Wong even provided a handy little TL;DR for moderators with a case of ADD:
TL;DR: We stand for freedom of speech. We will uphold existing rules against posting dox on reddit. But the reality is those rules end at our platform, and we will respect journalism as a form of speech that we don’t ban. We believe further change can come only from example-setting.
Mr. Wong was tapped as Reddit’s unconventional CEO back in March, after the “front page of the internet” was spun out from its corporate handlers, Advance Publications. Just after publishing the post, he said he was going to “nip off for a spot of tea,” because he apparently moonlights as Mrs. Doubtfire.