In a win for free speech, the popular social media platform Reddit is planning to encourage healthy conversation about the upcoming presidential election.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced that the platform will allow political ads, including ads from President Donald Trump’s campaign in a company all-hands meeting last week, attended and reported on by TechCrunch.
Huffman stated, “We debated having no political ads at all on Reddit and I certainly think there’s a compelling argument for that but I think that Reddit has the opportunity to elevate the discussion around political ads and a duty to play in the political process,” according to the article.
Huffman reportedly acknowledged that many of his employees disagree with the move, but he still said that it is important for Reddit to allow the conversation to take place. TechCrunch reported that Huffman believes the company “has a very important role to play” in the upcoming election, and hopes that the move will “shift the conversation or make the conversation more effective.”
The platform has not yet decided exactly how the ads will take form. TechCrunch reported that Reddit is considering several options, but political ads will likely take the form of a “homepage takeover, which is the top link of the site.” Users will be able to comment on and interact with these ads as a way to promote conversation.
Reddit does know that they will not allow auctions, however. In the past, TechCrunch noted, auctions have resulted in “advertisers essentially bombing the entire site with their ads.”
Usually, advertisers are allowed to moderate comments made on their posts, but Huffman worried that this could cause controversy if campaigns edit too much or too little. Allowing Reddit to moderate comments, he feared, could potentially have the same result. Huffman said, “the other approach would be no direct comments on the ads. Instead, we would have a sticky comment with a link encouraging users to submit that ad to a specific community for commentary,” reported TechCrunch.
Reddit has faced controversy over its speech restrictions in the past. In June of 2019, the Conservative subreddit “The_Donald” was quarantined by moderators, and in July, Huffman acknowledged in a podcast interview with Recode co-founder Kara Swisher that The_Donald “is not what we want users seeing.” In February of 2019, the platform received a $150 million investment from Chinese censorship company Tencent. Then on June 29, Reddit banned the r/The_Donald, r/ChapoTrapHouse, and about 2,000 other community subreddits in response to Black Lives Matter protests.
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