Reddit is developing an image problem. The self-proclaimed “front page of the Internet” has defined harassment and provided an content policy wherein violating content will be quarantined, but some members of the community say these policies don’t go far enough.
Operation Reddit Shine is taking Reddit to task, demanding that the social network take a hard stance against hate speech and challenging advertisers to #DumpReddit until it does.
Operation Reddit Shine is led by businesswoman and internet activist Casey Stevens, who said Reddit used to be one of her favorite websites. Her love affair started to turn sour after experiencing harassment from white supremacists on Reddit because of her participation in the r/blackladies subreddit.
Together, with other members of the r/blackladies forum, Stevens penned an open letter to Reddit, cosigned by 70 moderators of subreddits dedicated to people of color.
Stevens wrote on Huffington Post:
However, a month later, when Reddit banned five subreddits whose users were found harassing others on and off the site, many were dismayed by the fact that almost all of the racist subreddits remained.
Even the most recent policy of containment is not enough, according to Stevens, who said quarantine allows the hate groups to remain on the site subsidized by advertisers.
It seems the problem for Reddit is recognizing there’s a problem. According to Stevens racist harassment is a long standing issue being ignored and dismissed by Reddit staff as having no real-world impact. However, there is evidence to suggest that repeated exposure to stereotypes increases racial bias and can, in fact, have negative, real-world consequences.
What’s more, a recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, indicates that Reddit has become an incubator for white supremacists.
Reddit boasts the 9th highest Alexa Internet traffic ranking in the United States and the 36th worldwide. Many of Reddit’s racist subreddits are among its most popular.
The SPLC report outlines the rise and evolution of racist subreddits, where users post violent and dehumanizing images and video. It is precisely this content that Stevens and Operation Reddit Shine are taking a stand against, by targeting corporate sponsors who might not otherwise be aware that their ads are running next to racist content.
As part of this effort, Stevens launched a petition on ColorOfChange.org, which has received more than 30,000 signatures to date. And at least one company has pulled its ads from Reddit as a result of the initiative.
Rashad Robinson, executive director for Color of Change, told SocialTimes:
[Audible] said that after being alerted of [hate speech], which they didn’t know about, that they would be pulling their ads. They specifically talked about this not being in line with their business strategy. They talked about being located in Newark and wanting to work in the community and being committed to fairness and equity.
Together Operation Reddit Shine and Color of Change are targeting Netflix, the New Belgium Brewing Company and other Reddit advertisers next. The idea is to encourage companies to take a stand against hate speech on Reddit with their corporate dollars.
Stevens said that the focus is on Reddit because unlike nearly every other major social network, Reddit has no defined policy against hate speech. She fears it may lost cause but did offer some solutions including:
- Articulating a clear policy banning hate speech which demeans and dehumanizes people based on race, gender and sexuality.
- Prohibiting the creation of groups whose sole purpose is to hate other people.
Nobody is expecting Reddit to be perfect. There are going to be some gray areas. But they have no policy at all right now, they’re not even trying and that’s a big problem.
Readers: What do you think of the work done by Operation Reddit Shine?