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

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

Related Stories

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.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Technology stories


Features & Analysis

  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world

  • Music scoreFinal score Watch

    Goodbye to NYC's last classical sheet music shop

  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton checks her Blackberry from a desk inside a C-17 military plane upon her departure from Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Tripoli, Libya'Emailgate'

    Hillary gets a taste of scrutiny that lies ahead

BBC Future

(Science Photo Library)

Nasa’s amazing airport simulator

How to train 21st Century controllers


  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach – why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.