Reddit Moderators Call for More Action to Address Racism and Hate Speech on the Platform

Against the backdrop of the #BlackLivesMatter protests across the US, a group representing hundreds of Reddit moderators, who lead some of the platform’s most popular communities, has published an open letter calling for the platform to take more action against racism and hate speech.

As per the letter:

“The problem of Reddit’s leadership supporting and providing a platform for racist users and hateful communities has long been an issue. Nearly six years ago, dozens of subreddits signed the original open letter to the Reddit admins calling for action. While the Reddit admins acknowledged the letter and said it was a high priority to address this issue, extremely little has been done in the intervening years.”

The group also notes that despite promises, Reddit’s leadership team has failed to act, addressing CEO Steve Huffman specifically:

“These continued statements that you hear us, that this is a priority, or that you are working on it are not enough. It has been five years since your return as CEO and this still remains Reddit’s most glaring problem.”

Reddit has long been known for its free-speech approach, which has lead to it facilitating some of the web’s more controversial elements. Reddit played a key role in the distribution of celebrity nude photos, obtained via a hack, back in 2014, while it’s also been a point of focus for the toxic #gamergate discussion

Reddit has taken steps to clean up its act in more recent years, but evidently, moderators don’t believe those measures have been enough. Indeed, a recent report from the BBC suggests that at least one subreddit is now shutting down activity at some points in the day in order to limit the amount of racist and extremist content flooding its moderation team. 

The moderator group has called on the platform to take action in six specific ways:

  • Enact a sitewide policy against racism, slurs, and hatespeech targeted at protected groups – The group says that it’s time to “enact a specific and detailed policy that protects the disadvantaged members of our communities from hate based on their sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, country of origin, religion, or disability”.
  • Be proactive in banning hate-based communities – The group says that Reddit generally only takes action on hate subreddits when they’re featured in the news, which is not good enough.
  • Be proactive in banning hate users – The group also calls for more action against moderators who allow such content, in order to better address the core problem.
  • Reddit needs to hire more minorities/women, especially in leadership roles – The group also calls for more diversity in the platform’s management “to help shift the corporate culture and policies to be more equitable for all”.
  • Reddit needs to hire more community managers – The group says that Reddit needs to invest in paid managers to further address issues.
  • Honor Alexis Ohanian’s wishes to have his Reddit Board seat filled with a black candidate – And lastly, they call on Reddit to fulfill outgoing board member Alexis Ohanian’s request – which Reddit has done this week with the appointment of Michael Seibel.

​Huffman has posted a brief comment on the letter, noting that many of these issues align with Reddit’s already communicated intention to review its policies.

“We’d like to show progress with what we do in the coming weeks rather than what we say.”

As noted, now with 430 million monthly active users, Reddit has been working to improve its systems in order to provide a more brand-safe environment for advertisers. This latest call-out suggests that it still has its work cut out for it, and given the stakes, it seems likely that the platform will, indeed, respond and seek to revise its approach.

How far those efforts will extend we’ll have to wait and see, but now, it seems, is the time for Reddit to make a significant shift.

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