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Reddit Continues To Protect Racist Language In Favor of Free Speech (digitaltrends.com) 661

In a thread about Reddit's 2017 transparency report, a user asked CEO Steve Huffman whether posts containing racism or racial slurs violate Reddit's terms. Huffman revealed that said speech are permissible on the site. "On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs," Huffman clarified. "This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so." Digital Trends reports: It's unclear if Huffman's comments are representative of Reddit's company policy, but protection of hate speech can -- and do -- lead to online harassment and cyberbullying. A recent study from Pew revealed that as many as 40 percent of Americans have experienced some form of harassment online. And even if hate speech may still be protected content on Reddit, Huffman was quick to point out that any threat of violence is not tolerated on the site. "When users actions conflict with our own content policies, we take action," he said. This distinction is consistent with Reddit's prior policies for enforcement. "Going forward, we will take action against any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people; likewise we will also take action against content that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals," the updated terms read, noting that "context is key."
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Reddit Continues To Protect Racist Language In Favor of Free Speech

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  • ALL SPEECH.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Steve Jackson ( 4687763 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:03AM (#56423399)
    Minus Threats and Causing a Panic, are PROTECTED.... Even VILE, UNCOMFORTABLE, and UNPOPULAR Speech.... Is PROTECTED! Long Live the FIRST!
    • Re:ALL SPEECH.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bozzio ( 183974 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:09AM (#56423455)

      ... protected from government censoring in the US.

      Added some context.

      • Re:ALL SPEECH.... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:13AM (#56423475) Homepage

        >... protected from government censoring in the US.
        >
        > Added some context.

        Let me add some more. In the US, liberty is though of as something that government doesn't need to "give" to you. It exists as part of your natural condition. The Constitution exists to define the limits of government. It does not enumerate your rights.

        You are demonstrating that you simply don't care about the principle at large. YOU are why we need laws protecting us from evil men that would do us harm. YOU would do us harm otherwise.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Bozzio ( 183974 )

          I was demonstrating that some people don't live in the US.

          You are demonstrating how to build a strawman and get angry on the internet.

        • Let me add some more. In the US, liberty is though of as something that government doesn't need to "give" to you. It exists as part of your natural condition. The Constitution exists to define the limits of government. It does not enumerate your rights.

          I wish more people understood this.

          You are demonstrating that you simply don't care about the principle at large.

          I think that's a little unfair to assume about the GP. It seemed to me that they were just clarifying that the protections in the Constitution limit on they government.

          YOU are why we need laws protecting us from evil men that would do us harm. YOU would do us harm otherwise.

          YOU should know better than this. So many laws "protecting us from evil men that would do us harm" is a big part of the reason we're continually moving toward a police state.

          • In the US, liberty is though of as something that government doesn't need to "give" to you. It exists as part of your natural condition.

            liberty as a natural condition. huh. How about the limits to freedom ? My freedom ends where yours begins ... My freedom to punch you ends where your liberty to be unharmed begins. This is where government comes in: to define and protect those borders.

        • Re:ALL SPEECH.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cje ( 33931 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:33AM (#56424205) Homepage

          Curious.

          Does your definition of "liberty" include forcing privately-owned and operated Web sites to carry and publish material that the proprietors may fundamentally disagree with?

          Would the proprietors of these Web sites fall under your definition of "evil men that would do us harm" if they attempted to establish and enforce their own principles on their own private property?

      • What the government explicitly allows for, should not private institutions seek to uphold?

        If it's only the government that allows ALL speech, and all private sources block some speech - do you really have freedom of speech? Or is it just just an archaic term that means nothing?

        The whole point of these protections is they are supposed to be GUIDING PRINCIPALS by which the people of the U.S. live. That includes how we treat others. It doesn't mean everyone has to allow everything, but it DOES mean that we

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )

          What the government explicitly allows for, should not private institutions seek to uphold?

          Hell, no. Do you want a Christian institution to seek to uphold Atheist or Muslim speech in their congregations, when the government explicitly allows for freedom of religion?

          If it's only the government that allows ALL speech, and all private sources block some speech - do you really have freedom of speech?

          Yes, you do. You have the right to say what you want, but you have no right to stand on my soapbox when doing so. If all the soap boxes are owned by someone who won't let you speech, then you need to either build your own soap box, or find a different way to get your voice heard. The onus is on you, not the soap box owners.
          Also, yo

          • You misread (Score:5, Insightful)

            by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:16AM (#56424033)

            Hell, no. Do you want a Christian institution to seek to uphold Atheist or Muslim speech in their congregations

            Of course not, but that is not at all what I said.

            You have the right to say what you want, but you have no right to stand on my soapbox when doing so.

            And what *I* am saying, is that if I choose to let someone on MY Soapbox you have not right to knock it out from under them, and are morally wrong to try.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by blogagog ( 1223986 )
      Wish I was moderating right now so I could +1 you.
    • Private entity are free to censure. Since reddit is private...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:05AM (#56423415)

    So why are you making it sound like it's a bad thing?

    • by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:35AM (#56423671) Homepage

      Because all the SJW's are too dumb to realize the "hate speech" laws they want passed can be turned right around against themselves.

    • Count Dankula (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kunedog ( 1033226 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:08AM (#56423935)
      Just ask a comedian in the UK how quickly the mantra "Hate Speech is Not Free Speech" became "Joke Speech is Not Free Speech."
    • in a theater. Free speech comes with responsibility. Hate speech can and does cross the line to incitement to violence. When folks start questioning if only somebody would rid them of that meddlesome priest it's time for the government to step in.

      Furthermore Free Speech is about what the government does. It's not censorship if a private corporation doesn't want to do business with Stormfront or the like. Racist is not a protected class, and unless you're arguing it should be you have to live with the
  • So does Slashdot. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Train0987 ( 1059246 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:06AM (#56423417)

    So what? Free speech is preferable to censorship.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Slashdot admins don't censor stuff*, but moderators certainly do try to hide views they disagree with.

      Reddit is in some ways a little better because it shows almost all comments by default and up votes seem to be much more common and down-votes. Neither system is perfect.

      * Actually you can't post the n-word here.

      • Then you should meta-mod more often. People who abuse modpoints soon find themselves getting none anymore.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:39AM (#56423703)

        * Actually you can't post the n-word here.

        shuttup nigger

      • More and more I'm seeing topics on Reddit with shit like this in the comments:

        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]
        [removed]

        Yeah, that's a great thread. At least we don't have that here.
        • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

          That's up to the mods of the specific subreddit. Not reddit itself.

          Remember that each subreddit belongs to the mods, and reddit wants to take no responsibility for moderation. The saga of the_donald made that quite clear.

      • The problem for any business is that not all speech is good for business and that problem isn't going away. Somebody might have the right to panhandle but if you have to wade through a crowd of homeless people to get to a convenience store, people won't go there. Sure racist speech is free speech but if a web site allows this to happen, who is going to want to participate in the discussions? That's somewhat of a tyranny of the majority but I'm not sure how much that matters. If you have something that i
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:06AM (#56423429) Journal

    Because it is the most repellent speech that MUST be protected, or 'freedom of speech' means nothing.

    Adults understand that words only "hurt" people that allow them to.

    (To be clear, Reddit's is their META policy; subreddits are allowed to have whatever policies their founders choose, really.)

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:20AM (#56423551) Homepage Journal

      Surprised to see you saying that, since you were so upset when they banned subreddits like FatPeopleHate and CoonTown.

      Reddit's approach is sensible. The problem was never the language, it was never a free speech issue, it was that those subreddits were harassing people.

      • Considering I I don't recalll ever hearing of those subreddits, I'm not sure what you're talking about?

        FWIW if they did ban those subreddits, then they're not following their own policy - if racist speech is allowed, and CoonTown sounds pretty damned racist, they should have left it up.

    • Yes the speech must be protected but that doesn't mean that the speaker is guaranteed a platform. Places like Reddit, Slashdot, Facebook, et cetera rely on positive engagement by the users. If you alienate your users in the name of free speech, you end up with nothing. Those who want to spout uninformed opinions in vitriolic language should be allowed to do so. They can by serves and domain hosting and the rest and have at it. They're not entitled to use Reddit's platform.
  • Sounds like they don't want to implement a zero-tolerance policy, and want to give themselves the "context" excuse so they can still take action against people who are unruly and terrible. If only our schools and legislatures were run by these people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:09AM (#56423449)

    In America, "Hate Speech" and "cyberbullying" aren't illegal because they aren't codified as crimes.
    There is no statute for hate speech to follow, likewise for cyberbullying.
    Your expectation that a corporation or organization can somehow match up to your own personal definitions and expectations is completely childish and unproductive.
    If you want these things to be stopped, talk to your members of congress and get a law passed.
    Until then, kindly shut up about your pretend crimes.

    Thanks,
    The internet.

  • by CptLoRes ( 4510239 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:12AM (#56423465)
    Free speech was kinda considered a big deal by some important people in the past. If you start cherry picking what is considered free speech based on you local ideology or even worse political goals, then what is left is not really free speech is it. Free speech has to be both good and bad to work. And with free speech eroding on the internet and in general, what is next? Tought police?
    • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:22AM (#56423573)

      And with free speech eroding on the internet and in general, what is next? Tought police?

      UK already has that. You can go to jail for a Facebook post with unapproved opinions.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        It's our hard right conservative government. They pay lip service to freedom of expression but if it wasn't for the European Convention on Human Rights (soon to be scrapped post-Brexit) they'd do away with it tomorrow.

    • I guess I can just copy and paste into every up-modded post. Nobody is denying anybody the right to speak in these situations. They're simply declining to provide a platform.
  • Mel Brooks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:13AM (#56423477)

    Mel Brooks made a brilliant, funny and subversive movie back in the 70s called "Blazing Saddles". The reason why it made it so subversive was that he used all these racial slurs and vulgar adolescent humor to paint the racist town folks as being quite stupid and ignorant.

    When one see the butchered for television version that removes everything that can offend anyone, it loses its edge and point.

    Folks are too easily offended and I think many folks really aren't - they just like the power trip of shutting others up. Just a bunch of PC retards.

    • If you take away everything that could offend someone from Blazing Saddles, what's left is little more than a 2-minute trailer.

      • If you take away everything that could offend someone from Blazing Saddles, what's left is little more than a 2-minute trailer.

        It's twoo! It's twoo!

        RIP, Clevon Little.

  • "some form" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:15AM (#56423493)
    From the report:

    Around four-in-ten Americans (41%) have been personally subjected to at least one type of online harassment – which this report defines as offensive name-calling online

    Whenever you see some statistic like "40 percent of Americans have experienced some form of harassment online" you know they have jiggered the definition to inflate the numbers. By the report's definition, probably everyone on /. is a "victim".

    • Yeah, someone recently replied to a post of mine and dared to disagree. I felt so abused!

    • Cyberbullying....does that mean they found your IP, hacked your computer, put illegal media on it and called the cops? Does that mean they sent you a ping of death (or similar) knocking you offline?

      Oh, it just means "someone said mean things?" Wow, sounds awful, we should make a law against that.
  • Start suppressing some freedom of speech, and take the first step toward totalitarianism. Racist language is hateful, but we'd better learn to put up with (and despicable things like that) if we want to live in a free society. Also, I am sick and tired of being told by self-appointed guardians of the moral virtuousness and purity what it is that I can't have access to. I am and adult, and, within the law, I will make those decisions for myself and on behalf of my children till they become adults themselves.
    • True, I'll accept racist language as the price of a free society, but when said language devolves into threats of violence, the "free speech" claim is lost and action needs to be taken.

  • freedom of speech: as the american government concept applies is the freedom to criticize or speak out against the government without fear of reprisal, or censure. Its literally the ability to call Donald Trump a giant talking cheeto without being hauled out of your bed at 3 AM and forcibly executed in front of your family.

    freedom of speech: as it applies to society is not the same. There are several cases where private industry and society dont tolerate freedom of speech. You cannot protest a walmart w

    • >no private industry wants their brand affiliated even casually with hateful bigotry and racism. Unless it's the "good" racism and sexism for a "greater good" like being against white males. And recently against Asians because the outperform everyone else and are shining beacons of meritocracy. Can't have that. Didn't fit the non-whites are victims narrative.
  • Choice (Score:2, Informative)

    by JBMcB ( 73720 )

    It's simple. If you don't like Reddit's terms and policies, you can use some other website that matches what you want. There are a whole bunch out there.

    If you want nearly unlimited freedom of speech you can go to one of the chans. If you want something more locked-down you can post to the somewhat ironically named freethoughtblogs. There are all kinds of communities you can be a part of. Or with a tiny bit of technical know-how, you can create your own. Isn't it great?

    • On one hand, I very much agree with your argument and position.

      On the other, though, there are maybe a few dozen sites at most that have become the town square. Facebook, Redit, etc ARE the electronic town square now. That is where speech happens. Yes, they are privately owned, but that is the only place where one can go and be heard.

      What I fear the most is that due to the monopolistic control of our virtual town squares is that they can (and already to some extent, are) be used to exert undo control ove

      • That's the downside of the town square being a commercial entity. But lets not be deceived. Somebody has always been in control of the town square to some extent. Historically in the US it was the churches. Then to some extent the newspapers. Now it's tech companies. I'm not convinced it's any better or worse right now, just different. Facebook, reddit, and the like really don't have any ideology. They just want to maximize engagement. And none of them really suppress opinions. They suppress certai
        • I would amend your statement to read, "they want to maximize engagement as long as it advances their own agenda, whether that agenda be societal, financial, or simply raw power".

          Thus, I do think that there are wide swaths of "speech" that are now considered not only disagreeable and offensive to the hearer, but "hate speech" or "inciteful speech" or even "physically harmful speech". This 1984-esque use of synonyms that change the meaning of basic words, and hence the way we think about the concepts that th

  • Behavior can be a problem: screaming racial slurs at a group before attacking them.

    Some things are not a problem, but are sort of distasteful: screaming racial slurs at a group.

    Other things are actually useful: logical discussion of race, ethnicity, and whether or not diversity is functional at all.

  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:29AM (#56423627) Homepage Journal
    "hate speech" is, without exception, an artificial construct designed to circumvent free speech. The moment someone is offended by something spoken or written, it becomes "hate speech". Well guess what folks, that's exactly what freedom of speech is intended to protect.
  • by forkfail ( 228161 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:32AM (#56423649)

    There is no need to protect non-offensive speech.

    No one is going to go after speech that they agree with. It is only speech with which we don't agree that is in need of protection. Because if we don't, eventually, someone who doesn't agree with us is going to prevent us from speaking.

    It really is that simple.

    • And nobody is going after speech they don't agree with. They're going after incendiary speech. The reason that people tend to speak in this way is that they feel like they are being ignored. And often they are. Because their ideas don't have supporting evidence. But rather than go back and do additional research and make a stronger case, they do the equivalent of shouting which only serves to make the community less attractive.
      • So, they're going after "incendiary speech" not because they don't agree with it, but because....?

        And who gets to draw this line between "offensive" and "incendiary"?

  • bill_mcgonigle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:14AM (#56424021) Homepage Journal

    Reddit has been shutting down many, many subreddits recently.

    They are taking responsibility for user-generated content, and once they do that they don't get to only take responsibility for some.

    I think it would have been much smarter for Reddit to remain neutral and claim "common-carrier" status, but their virtue-signaling management wouldn't have it.

    I hear Voat.co is where the banned communities are going and their stack happens to still be open source, so that's an additional level of transparency.

  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @12:25PM (#56425231) Homepage

    Nothing wrong with protecting speech, even reprehensible speech. I'd probably be labeled an SJW on /. (which has the highest number of Gamergaters and Trumpers of any community I interact with), but I'm a libertarian. I believe in free speech, even shitty speech. Unless someone is specifically attacking an individual, or calling for violence, it's protected speech in my opinion.

    Reddit has specifically banned several subreddits over speech-type grounds, but they have all been areas that specifically attacked individuals, called for violence, or engaged in unlawful activity (or really-narrowly-lawful-if-you-don't-look-too-closely-but-it's-a-gray-area like technically-SFW ephibophilia image sharing). They are moderating in the least harmful way they can and still stay within the law, and that's exactly what they should be doing.

    I'm all for Reddit's policies, and I applaud their restraint. They protect speech they don't like, and that's exactly the American way.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @12:29PM (#56425289) Homepage Journal

    I'm not a fan of racist speech.

    I think it's disgusting. And, like an adult, I avoid partaking in it myself.

    But the idea that offensive speech OF ANY STRIPE is somehow "not protected" by Free Speech is INSANE.

    Offense is taken, not given.

    If you don't like the speech being presented to you, be an adult.
    Change the channel. Leave. Argue against it.

    But bitching to the government to shut someone up, no matter HOW ignorant the things they say are, is wrong.

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