Reddit Co-Founder Quits In Racism Protest

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Alexis Ohanian leaves Reddit’s board of directors and says he will donate $1m to charity in move protesting hate speech and racial inequality

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has stepped down from the company’s board and has asked the company to appoint a black candidate to replace him.

Ohanian, who served as Reddit’s executive chairman, said on Friday he would use future gains on his Reddit shares to “serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate”.

The tech entrepreneur said on Twitter that he had made the decision “as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?'”

His move follows days of protests against racial inequality and police brutality.

Image credit: Alexis Ohanian/Reddit
Image credit: Alexis Ohanian/Reddit

‘Act of leadership’

Ohanian, who is married to black tennis star Serena Williams, said he would donate $1 million (£800,000) to the non-profit Know Your Rights Camp, founded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. 

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian wrote.

Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman said in a statement later on Friday that the company would “honour” Ohanian’s request to appoint a black successor.

He said Reddit is planning to update its content moderation policies to “explicitly address hate” and that he hoped the timeline for this would be “weeks, not months”.

“(Our) current policy lists only what you cannot do, articulates none of the values behind the rules, and does not explicitly take a stance on hate or racism,” Huffman said.

Protest

“We will update our content policy to include a vision for Reddit and its communities to aspire to, a statement on hate, the context for the rules, and a principle that Reddit isn’t to be used as a weapon.”

Social media platforms have faced growing pressure to bolster their controls against misinformation and hate speech, and Reddit in particular has been criticised for lax content moderation policies.

Former Reddit cheif executive Ellen Pao said last week that the company “nurtures and monetises white supremacy and hate all day long”.

Following the death of George Floyd, moderators of some popular discussion threads took Reddit to task for continuing to harbour racism by taking threads private or banning new posts altogether.

Twitter has recently begun fact-checking messages by US president Donald Trump and placed a warning label on one post for “glorifying violence”, while Snapchat said it would stop promoting Trump’s content for “inciting racial violence”.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg declined to take similar action, a decision that was criticised by both present and former employees, including senior staff.

In response to Twitter’s move, Trump signed an executive order aimed at ending ending internet companies’ free-speech  protections.

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