- Reddit CEO Steve Huffman posted a letter to Reddit employees in response to recent protests over police killings of Black Americans.
- Former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao responded to the letter on Twitter, calling Huffman out for not shutting down pro-Trump subreddit r/the_donald.
- Reddit quarantined r/the_donald in June 2019, but the subreddit came under fire for being a site for far-right rhetoric.
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On June 1, current Reddit CEO Steve Huffman put out a letter to Reddit employees titled “Remember the Human — Black Lives Matter” in response to ongoing protests over police brutality that followed the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody. Huffman said in the letter that “we do not tolerate hate, racism, and violence, and while we have work to do to fight these on our platform, our values are clear.”
Former Reddit CEO Ellen K. Pao responded to the letter on Twitter in a quoted reply to the official Reddit Twitter account’s tweet linking to Huffman’s letter. “I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence,” Pao wrote. “So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”
—Ellen K. Pao (@ekp) June 2, 2020
Reddit “quarantined” r/the_donald in June 2019
In her tweet, Pao explicitly called out r/The_Donald, a popular pro-Trump subreddit that became notorious for white supremacist rhetoric and alt-right beliefs. In March 2019, Mother Jones reported on the Islamophobic rhetoric that flourished on r/The_Donald following two shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
In June 2019, Reddit “quarantined” the subreddit, which at the time had more than 750,000 subscribers, meaning that the subreddit and its posts would no longer appear in search and recommendation results or be able to generate revenue. In a statement provided to Insider at the time of the quarantine, Reddit said, “we are sensitive to what could be considered political speech, however, recent behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy. As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit.”
r/The_Donald currently still has over 790,000 subscribers, but posting frequency of the forum appears to have drastically slowed. Reddit previously banned communities like r/altright for the “proliferation of personal and confidentia information” as well as r/alternativeright and r/rightyfriends, which per Vox were banned for “violating the Reddit rules.”
Ellen Pao fought against harassment on Reddit during her tenure as CEO in 2014 and 2015, but faced massive backlash and harassment as a result.
Pao became the interim CEO of Reddit in November 2014, later stepping down from the post in July 2015. During Pao’s tenure as CEO, Reddit instituted a new harassment policy; in June 2015, the company banned five subreddits (to outrage from redditors), including one dedicated to hating fat people, because they broke “reddit rules based on their harassment of individuals,” per a post from Reddit staff at the time. After a key Reddit staffer, Victoria Taylor, was fired on July 2, moderators revolted by shutting down key areas of the site. Pao apologized for communication issues as a petition calling for her firing circulated, and later resigned on July 10.
Current CEO (and Reddit co-founder) Steve Huffman stepped in as CEO following Pao’s departure. He’s had his own tussles with r/The_Donald: in 2016, he admitted to modifying posts from users on r/The_Donald after they repeatedly sent him expletives.
Others on Twitter have taken issue with Huffman’s letter regarding Black Lives Matter as well, with the Twitter account for r/BlackPeopleTwitter quoting Reddit’s tweet with an image of a Guardian headline that reads, “Open racism and slurs are fine to post on Reddit, says CEO.” The headline was referring to comments Huffman made in a Reddit thread after a user asked if “open racism, including slurs” was against Reddit’s rules, to which Huffman replied, “It’s not.” He later clarified his comments, saying “To be perfectly clear, while racism itself isn’t against the rules, it’s not welcome here.”
Reddit declined to comment, and Insider has reached out to Ellen K. Pao for comment.