Reddit’s pledge to fight racism has prompted hundreds of moderators to call on the company’s CEO to quit talking and take real action to stop the abuse circulating on the social media site.
“We hope that Reddit will not just share empty platitudes — but will take a meaningful stand against hate,” reads the open letter, which has received support from over 550 online communities hosted on the site.
The letter is a rebuke to CEO Steve Huffman’s Friday vow to address racism on Reddit in the wake of the George Floyd protests. According to Huffman, the company is preparing to change its content policies and take a stronger stance against hate speech. However, many Reddit volunteer moderators are doubtful Huffman is serious.
“These continued statements that you hear us, that this is a priority, or that you are working on it are not enough,” reads the open letter, which was posted on Monday. “It has been five years since your return as CEO and this still remains Reddit’s most glaring problem. Steve, if you and Reddit genuinely care about the values of standing up to racism and hate, then you need to back it up with real action.”
The online communities, or subreddits, that are backing the letter include some overtly political ones, such as r/blacklivesmatter, r/democrats, and r/joebiden. However, many nonpolitical subreddits with hundreds of thousands or millions of subscribers—including r/gaming, r/harrypotter, r/kpop, r/Nottheonion, and r/spiderman—are also supporting the letter.
The post goes on to point out Huffman has permitted racism on the site in the name of free speech (although he doesn’t welcome the hateful activities). So the 550 subreddits are demanding the company enact a site-wide policy specifically “against racism, slurs, and hate speech targeted at protected groups.”
The letter also calls on Reddit to hire more minorities and women in leadership roles, and take responsibility for removing hate-based communities and racists on the site, instead of offloading the work to volunteer moderators and concerned users. “Too often these (hateful) users have been allowed to stay on this website after numerous site-wide violations, letting them move on to participate in new hate communities and spread their vitriol further across this site,” the letter adds.
The letter appears to have drawn some support from Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who resigned from the company’s board on Friday in the hopes that he will be replaced with a black candidate. “Your voices matter,” Ohanian said in a Monday tweet that links to the open letter.
Huffman also responded to the open letter. “Your list and our list have a high amount of overlap,” he said in a Reddit post. “We’d like to show progress with what we do in the coming weeks rather than what we say. I’m looking forward to speaking directly with those of you participating in the Mod Councils.”
Huffman also said he will honor Ohanian’s request to name a black candidate to the company’s board.
However, the original authors of the open letter claim Reddit has delisted their post from the website’s main page on r/popular. Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether this was true.