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Reddit CEO says it’s impossible to police hate speech, and he’s 100% right

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Moderating speech online is a slippery slope, and Reddit’s CEO argues that it’s impossible. Here’s why censorship of hate speech is still so complicated.

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Reddit often gets a bad rap in the media for being a cesspool of offensive language and breeding grounds for extreme, harmful ideas. This is due in part to the company’s refusal to mediate or ban hate speech.

In fact, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman recently stated that it’s not possible for the company to moderate hate speech. Huffman noted that since hate speech can be “difficult to define,” enforcing a ban would be “a nearly impossible precedent to uphold.”

As lazy as that may sound, anyone who has operated massive online groups (as we do) knows this to be unfortunate but true.

Currently, Reddit policy prohibits “content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people […or] that glorifies or encourages the abuse of animals.”

Just about anything else is fair game. Sure, subreddit forums have been shut down in the past, but typically as the result of public pressure. Back in 2015, several subreddits were removed, including ones focused on mocking overweight people, transgender folks, and people of color.

However, other equally offensive subreddits didn’t get the axe. Reddit’s logic was that the company received complaints that the now retired subreddits were harassing others on and offline. Offensive posts are permitted, actual harassment is not.

Huffman previously stated, “On Reddit, the way in which we think about speech is to separate behavior from beliefs.” So posting something horribly racist won’t get flagged unless there’s evidence that users crossed the line from free speech to harassing behavior.

Drawing the line between harassment and controversial conversation is where things get tricky for moderators.

Other social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at least make an attempt, though. So what’s holding Reddit back?

Well, for one, moderating hate speech isn’t a clear cut task.

Right now, AI can’t fully take the reins because to truly put a stop to hate speech, there must be an understanding of both language and intent.

Since current AI isn’t quite there yet, Facebook currently employs actual people for the daunting task. The company mostly relies on overseas contractors, which can get pretty expensive (and can lack understanding of cultural contexts).

Users post millions of comments to Reddit per day, and paying real humans to sift through every potentially offensive or harassing post could break the bank.

Most agree that cost isn’t a relevant excuse, though, so Facebook is looking into buying and developing software specializing in natural language processing as an alternative solution. But right now, Reddit does not seem likely to follow in Facebook’s footsteps.

While Facebook sees itself as a place where users should feel safe and comfortable, Reddit’s stance is that all views are welcome, even potentially offensive and hateful ones.

This April in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) a user straight up asked if obvious racism and slurs are against Reddit’s rules.

Huffman responded in part, “the best defense against racism and other repugnant views both on Reddit and in the world, is instead of trying to control what people can and cannot say through rules, is to repudiate these views in a free conversation.”

So essentially, although racism is “not welcome,” it’s also not likely to be banned unless there is associated unacceptable behavior as well.

It’s worth noting that while Reddit as a whole does not remove most hate speech, each subreddit has its own set of rules that may dictate stricter rules. The site essentially operates as an online democracy, with each subreddit “state” afforded the autonomy to enforce differing standards.

Enforcement comes down to moderators, and although some content is clearly hateful, other posts can fall into grey area.

Researches at Berkeley partnered with the Anti-Defamation League recently partnered up to create The Online Hate Index project, an AI program that identifies hate speech. While the program was surprisingly accurate in identifying hate speech, determining intensity of statements was difficult.

Plus, many of the same words are used in hate and non-hate comments. AI and human moderators struggle with defining what crosses the line into hate speech. Not all harmful posts are immediately obvious, and when a forum receives a constant influx of submissions, the volume can be overwhelming for moderators.

While it’s still worth making any effort to foster healthy online communities, until we get a boost to AI’s language processing abilities, complete hate speech moderation may not be possible for large online groups.

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Social Media

How to quickly make your LinkedIn profile stand out from the masses

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Most of us have a love/hate relationship with LinkedIn, but no matter your feelings, you should be the one who stands out in a crowd – here’s how.

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Your LinkedIn is your brand. That’s it. Whether you are job hunting (or people are hunting you), or are showing off your business, insight, acumen, or simply networking; your profile on LinkedIn needs to stay appealing and not drive potential headhunters, bosses, clients, or networking groups bananas.

Let’s start with a three part list of what you MUST do, what you SHOULD do, and what you COULD do.

Here’s what you MUST DO (as in, do it now).

  1. Get a #GREAT LinkedIn photo. Nothing sells you like the right profile picture. No selfies. No mountain biking. Get a professional headshot. Don’t lie about your age. Wear what you wear when you’re on the job. Smile. People are visual.
  2. Simplify your profile. Cut the buzzwords. Cut out excess skills that don’t add to your vision or that don’t represent the kind of job you want. (i.e. most of us can use Outlook but few of us need to mention that skill because we don’t support Outlook). Focus on the skills that are important.
  3. Keep it current. Your LinkedIn should reflect your career and current responsibilities. Update the description. Add new projects. Change your groups as you change in your career and move towards new levels. Indicate when you receive a promotion.
  4. Extra, Extra! Headlines. Don’t use something lame for your headline. How would you want to catch a headhunter to look at you if you could only say 10 words? Make it standout. There are thousands of managers – but only one you.
  5. Custom URL. Just do it. Pick your own URL. It’s FREEEEEEE.
  6. Get the app. Make LinkedIn a part of your mobile life and check it more often than you do Snapchat.

Here’s what you SHOULD DO (Set aside some time at Starbucks and go do this in the next month).

  1. Tell your story. Your summary should bring to live the content of your career. Don’t leave that section blank. Spend some time crafting a cool story. Run it by your professional mentor. Send it to your English major friends.
  2. Connect. Add colleagues. Add partners from other organizations. Use connections to broaden your network. Synch your profile with your address book. Add people after a conference.
  3. Endorse your connections. Identify people you’ve worked with and give them the endorsements – which can get them to come endorse you!
  4. Ask for recommendations. Ask a colleague, partner, or manager to write you a recommendation to help advertise your skills.
  5. Add a nice cover photo. Again, visual people. Some more on that here.

Here’s what you COULD DO (If you’re feeling dedicated, what you can do to give yourself an extra edge.)

  1. Share your media. Upload presentations, videos, speeches, or projects that you can share. (Don’t violate company policy though!).
  2. Publish original content. LinkedIn has a vibrant publishing feature and sharing your original work (or content you’ve published elsewhere) is a great way to share your voice.
  3. Post status updates. Share your reactions. Share articles. Repost from influencers. Be active and keep your feed vibrant.

That’s a quick list to get started. So go start your LinkedIn makeover (and I’ll go do the same). Let’s get connected!

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Social Media

You’re tired of Twitter because you’re no longer their average demographic

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Twitter was once a gathering place for industry professionals, but if you’re finding yourself drifting away, you’re not alone – the average demographic has changed. A lot.

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Each major social media platform has a tendency to draw a particular demographic, giving each individual platform a distinct tinge or feel. However, research shows that the demographics of Twitter may make it the most unique and youthful social media platform yet.

Perhaps the most notable aspect that sets Twitter apart is its content generation. While Twitter has approximately 126 million daily users, only around 10 percent of those users tweet with any reliable frequency. Surprisingly, that 10 percent user base is responsible for curating around 80 percent of the content on Twitter, giving a shockingly small group of people control over the bulk of Twitter’s output.

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time on Twitter probably won’t find this revelation entirely illuminating; after all, most of what you see on Twitter generally looks like a slightly different iteration of something that someone else said on Twitter. Even so, the significance of such a large percentage of Twitter’s content coming from such a small group cannot be discounted.

In another shake-up, Twitter users as a collective also tend to be younger than other social media users.

Again, you’ll usually see this openly reflected in both the tone and persuasion of the content posted there, but the objective youthfulness of Twitter does explain some of the criticism levied toward its users by other social media aficionados.

While these two main points seem relatively benign, not everyone agrees with Twitter’s eclectic nature. Twitter’s distinguishing factors have led some, to label it as a “collective hallucination” of a platform, meaning that its demographic data, content themes, and aggregate of information all combine to create a different picture of America than is actually correct; naturally, the democratic-leaning persuasion of Twitter doesn’t help correct this assumption.

But what sticks out to some publications as a pipe dream of a demographic is, in fact, fairly accurate to America’s example insofar as race and gender ratio is concerned — even though Twitter may not embody the politically diverse “melting pot” of America’s government or emulate its education statistics.

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Social Media

Big backlash after woman tries to shame McD worker for napping

(SOCIAL MEDIA) This might be my favorite story of the year – a woman calls out a napping employee, and the community rejects her tweet, then rallies behind the employee to help improve his life.

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Social media originated as a form of communication to stay in touch with people that you don’t see every day. From there, it blossomed into a community of idea-sharing and a source for news.

As social media grew more popular, the dark side began to rear its ugly head and people began using it as a method of attacking people from behind their keyboards. So much of social media has become negative that it’s hard to want to stay active.

Such was the case when a woman in Fayette County, Georgia shared a photo of a McDonald’s worker asleep in the booth. She posted the photo to social media in haste, in an attempt to shame the McDonald’s location for not doing anything about the employee’s behavior.

What she didn’t realize was that the employee – Simon Childs – was homeless and was simply resting between shifts.

The 21-year old father recently fell into hard times after his mother passed away, and found himself without a residence, but with a job at McDonald’s. When he found out about what the woman posted, Childs was disappointed by her actions.

“It kind of hurt to see my picture up there, you know,” he told WSB in Atlanta. “I thought it was something negative and nobody would care about it.”

The woman’s photo received a lot of attention on social media, but not in the way that she had intended. Local community members near Childs learned of his story and rejected the shaming. They began donating items to help with his child. Others donated hotel rooms, while a local restauranteur loaned Childs his car.

The nameless woman who posted the photo reportedly claims that she didn’t intend to shame Childs, especially since the image was only posted to a private group. However, we all know that it only takes one screenshot to make something “private” known to the whole entire world.

This shows us a few timeless lessons: Nothing on social media or the Internet is private, karma works in mysterious ways, and never make assumptions about anyone as you never know what is going on in their world.

That’s my morals and values lesson for the day. Class dismissed.

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