Reddit, under Ellen Pao, launches harassment crackdown

Reddit Image copyright Reddit
Image caption Reddit is known for its promotion of free speech and online anonymity

Social news site Reddit has launched an anti-harassment policy that allows it to ban users who bully others.

In a blogpost, the site - known for its liberal attitude towards free speech and anonymity - said it was "unhappy with harassing behaviour".

Users who believe they are being bullied will be able to email Reddit and report it.

But some users complained that the policy is vague and not in keeping with Reddit's promotion of free speech.

The site announced the changes, for which it has been preparing for six months, in a blogpost on Thursday signed by Reddit co-founder and Executive Chair Alexis Ohanian, interim CEO Ellen Pao, and Jessica Moreno, Reddit's head of community.

"We've seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals," the San Francisco company wrote, adding that it is also seeing more and different types of harassment than in the past.

For example, some users are harassing people across platforms and posting links on Reddit to private information on other sites, it said.

It added that it defines harassment as "systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that Reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Reddit's interim chief executive Ellen Pao - along with two other staffers - introduced the changes

But, in comments posted on the site, users expressed dissatisfaction with the plan.

"Don't 'keep everyone safe'. This isn't Facebook, Reddit is a free speech platform," said one, who added that it was not for administrators to "dictate to subreddits how they should handle their community".

Subreddits are individual communities within the larger site - usually focusing on a specific topic, such as news or technology.

"Censorship should be the subreddit's decision. If we feel that some subs should be silenced then we are no better than they are," said the user XPythagoras.

'Pandering to advertisers'

Another user AltLogin202 wrote: "They're pandering to advertisers. Reddit is (rightfully) earning a negative reputation for some of its content and users.

"Posting meaningless feel-good drivel like this makes companies feel better about making ad buys."

Reddit's interim CEO Ellen Pao this year lost a high-profile gender-discrimination lawsuit against a prominent venture capital firm. That case highlighted issues of gender imbalance and working conditions for women in Silicon Valley.

Earlier this year, the site said it would remove photos, videos and links with explicit content, if the person in the image has not given permission for it to be posted.

That change came about six months after hackers obtained nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities and posted them to social media sites, including Reddit and Twitter.

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