reddit, Inc. – Do As I Say, Not As I Do

by Mike Wendy on May 17, 2015

The popular website reddit has recently changed its comments policy, seeking to promote free expression on its website by limiting “harassing” and “abusive” speech.

Notes the company’s blog announcing the new policy on Thursday:

Instead of promoting free expression of ideas, we are seeing our open policies stifling free expression; people avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety. Last month, we conducted a survey of over 15,000 redditors—these are people who are part of the reddit community—that showed negative responses to comments have made people uncomfortable contributing or even recommending reddit to others. The number one reason redditors do not recommend the site—even though they use it themselves—is because they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content…

…Because of this, we are changing our practices to prohibit attacks and harassment of individuals through reddit with the goal of preventing them.

Why is this newsworthy?

The two faces of Alexis Ohanian and his "my type of speech control is OK, but yours isn't" Reddit.

The two faces of reddit co-founder / executive chairman, Alexis Ohanian, who believes that only companies like his can speak as they want, and that it’s OK to ban others – like ISPs – from speaking at all.

Sure, reddit should do as it wants with its community, carefully curating its property and brand as it – not government – sees fit. I agree with that. Now, there’s the do-goody, progressive, “I’m limiting speech to make speech more free” old saw with which I don’t agree. But, heck, that’s their problem. I don’t think we get more liberty and freedom by limiting speech. Still, they can do what they want with their private property (even if it’s a dumb decision). I’m all for that.

Of course, the (progressive) FCC is following the “I can boost free speech by limiting it” line of thinking, too. This I especially don’t agree with. Its new Net Neutrality rules, which ban paid priority agreements and other forms of speech “discrimination,” take away the right of private ISPs to curate / speak with their property as they want. The First Amendment was designed to stop this very type of government censorship and aggression on private actors.

But I digress. Back to reddit. You may remember, the corporation vocally supported the FCC and its takeover of the Internet by reclassifying ISP services as 1934, Title II telephone services. Last July, reddit urged the FCC to muzzle ISPs and their speech activities, demanding that the agency:

…enact bright-line rules which prohibit blocking, technical discrimination, and paid prioritization, for both fixed and mobile. Doing that requires classifying broadband providers under Title II of the Communications Act…

Weird, this free speech stuff. It’s OK for reddit to use, curate and discriminate all the free expression it wants. The President is even helping companies like reddit do so by enacting Net Neutrality.

But for ISPs?

No way, man! You’re not communications companies. Er, I mean…umm…gulp…well, you’re definitely not speakers like us.” (I paraphrase)

That’s for sure, you two-faced hypocrites.

Do as I say, not as I do is a crummy policy. It didn’t work for our parents. It shouldn’t be allowed to work for Uncle Sam and the reddits of the world either.

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