Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao was the only executive at the community news site in favor of letting the site's more controversial sections continue to exist, a former CEO of the company said. Yishan Wong, who preceded Pao at Reddit, posted a message on the site Tuesday explaining that the site was never about promoting free speech, a favorite claim of users who object when subreddits like r/FatPeopleHate or r/Jailbait are banned. Users who objected when those and other subreddits were banned demonized Pao, assuming she had a hand in “censoring” the site.
With Pao's dismissal last week, though, it now looks like Reddit will scrub the subsections, known as subreddits, that have damaged the site's reputation by devolving into racism, sexism and homophobia.
“But ... the most delicious part of this is that on at least two separate occasions, the board pressed [Pao] to outright ban all the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge. She resisted, knowing the community, claiming it would be a s---show,” he wrote. “Ellen isn’t some 'evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil' as [she] was often depicted. She was approved by the board and recommended by me because when I left, she was the only technology executive anywhere who had the chops and experience to manage a startup of this size, and who understood what Reddit was all about.”
Wong's post came in response to an announcement from current Reddit CEO Steve Huffman. Huffman, who started the website in 2005 with Alexis Ohanian, explained what will happen to Reddit post-Pao in a missive Tuesday. Reddit is largely made up of “wonderful, creative, funny, smart and silly communities,” he wrote before hinting at the future.
“There is also a dark side, communities whose purpose is reprehensible, and we don't have any obligation to support them. And we also believe that some communities currently on the platform should not be here at all,” he wrote.
“Neither Alexis nor I created Reddit to be a bastion of free speech, but rather as a place where open and honest discussion can happen: These are very complicated issues, and we are putting a lot of thought into it. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for quite some time. We haven’t had the tools to enforce policy, but now we’re building those tools and re-evaluating our policy.”