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Reddit CEO Steve Huffman recently got in some trouble after implying in an AMA that open racism and offensive slurs are permitted on the site. “On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs,” Hoffman said under his username spez. “This means on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so. When users’ actions conflict with our content policies, we take action.”
The waters get murkier in the second part of his response where he says “communities can set appropriate standards around language for themselves.” This self-governing approach allows for certain groups to be united under a common, overtly racist rhetoric without any fear of repercussions. “Many communities have rules around speech that are more restrictive than our own, and we fully support those rules.” Following backlash over his remarks, Huffman attempted to clarify his comments, explaining that “while racism itself isn’t against the rules, it’s not welcome here.”
“When it comes to enforcement, we separate behavior from beliefs. We cannot control people’s beliefs, but we can police their behaviors,” Huffman wrote. “As it happens, communities dedicated racist beliefs end up banned for violating rules we do have around harassment, bullying, and violence.”
“There exist repugnant views in the world. As a result, these views may also exist on Reddit,” he added. “I don’t want them to exist on Reddit any more than I want them to exist in the world, but I believe that presenting a sanitized view of humanity does us all a disservice. It’s up to all of us to reject these views.”