"Hate speech is difficult to define" and ban, Reddit Chief Executive Officer Steve Huffman said in response to cybersecurity researcher Zachary Swanson who recently messaged him through one of the world's most popular content platforms to inquire about why the company still isn't condemning such practices. "We're not the thought police," Mr. Huffman said, as seen in the screenshots below. Mr. Swanson later had his account suspended on "harassment" grounds for a week, with the penalty being issued after he shared his conversation with Reddit's chief on two subreddits. The content platform did not elaborate on the move and sharing private Reddit conversations with users is not against the company's rules.
This April, Mr. Huffman said Reddit remains adamant to not act against any kind of speech, noting that the firm only wants to penalize behavior, i.e. speech meant to incite violence. The executive did not elaborate on the matter at the time, causing some public backlash over the matter as he effectively signaled the company has no plans to take down r/The_Donald, the largest subreddit for supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump with over 600,000 subscribers, some of whom were proven to have practiced hate speech in the past. Reddit previously changed its content ranking algorithms to practically exclude submissions from r/The_Donald from its front page but otherwise hasn't acted against the community as a whole.
In his correspondence with Mr. Swanson, Mr. Huffman argued defining hate speech isn't "really done" by anyone, making consistent enforcement of any policies aimed against such activities essentially "impossible." As later pointed out by some critics, major social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr have all managed to define and combat hate speech on their platforms in the past and Reddit itself has already been acting against intolerant communities in the past, having never allowed them to reach the size that's anywhere near comparable to that of r/The_Donald. The users of the community in question have often accused Reddit of censorship, claiming their critics are the ones who are being intolerant as they're trying to inhibit their right to the freedom of expression. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply to private companies and is only meant to prevent the government from interfering with one's freedom of speech, hate speech included.