Reddit will not ban 'distasteful' content, chief executive says

Screenshot of Gawker story The fallout began after Gawker exposed 'Violentacrez'

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Social news site Reddit will not censor "distasteful" sections of its website, its chief executive has said.

The site has recently been criticised over sections in which users shared images of, among other things, women photographed without their knowledge.

Yishan Wong told the site's moderators legal content should not be removed, even if "we find it odious or if we personally condemn it".

"We stand for free speech... we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits."

An article on Gawker exposed the real-world identity of "Violentacrez", a Reddit user said to be posting large amounts of questionable content.

Gawker said the man - whose real name is Michael Brutsch - had created, or was the moderator of, several sections known as "subreddits".

His contributions included a section entitled "jailbait", a term given to sexualised images of under-age girls.

Another subreddit, called Creepshots, featured images of women taken in public but without consent. Commenters would typically discuss the person's attractiveness.

Both sections have since been shut down, but Mr Wong's statement made it clear other "distasteful" sections would remain.

'Bit of a pickle'

The issue drew questions over Reddit's policy of not blocking content which, while not technically illegal, would be considered by many as unacceptable.

In a posting made to a private area of the site for moderators and administrators, Mr Wong described the situation as "a bit of a pickle".

Start Quote

We chose to recognise that opponents have the right to criticise us, to expose us, to tell a story about us”

End Quote Yishan Wong Reddit

"There sure has been a lot of trouble lately for Reddit, and I'd like to talk about about that before I nip off for a spot of tea," he wrote.

He went on to add: "We know that some will not agree with us.

"We also think that if someday, in the far future, we do become a universal platform for human discourse, it would not do if in our youth, we decided to censor things simply because they were distasteful."

However, Mr Wong - who used to be an engineer at Facebook - said the website would continue to enforce a policy to not allow "doxxing", a term given to the process of outing a member by posting personal details online.

"We will ban the posting of personal information, because it incites violence and harassment against specific individuals," Mr Wong said.

He blamed past instances of misguided "witch-hunts" for this rule.

Gawker ban

Following the exposure of Mr Brutsch, several Reddit moderators - who are volunteers - imposed a ban on users posting any links to the Gawker site.

Reddit Alien Reddit - whose mascot is this alien - is one of the internet's most popular websites

In addition, Reddit administrators imposed a site-wide ban on posting the specific Gawker story about Mr Brutsch.

Mr Wong described the decision as a mistake that was "not making Reddit look so good". The ban has now been lifted.

"As admins, we chose to recognise that opponents have the right to criticise us, to expose us, to tell a story about us - even if we don't like that story or we feel it's wrong."

However, individual subreddits can choose their own rules regarding what sites are blocked. One popular area, Politics, is continuing to block Gawker links.

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, moderator "Raerth" said there would need to be a "major change in the way Gawker approach stories" before that situation changed.

Mr Brutsch, who continues to use Reddit under a different username, recently told users that he had since lost his job at a financial services company in Texas.

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