Reddit and parameters of “Free Speech”

Reddit gets it.  They do not ask for your private information upon signing up, nor do their cookies follow you around the internet when you are looking for a recipe. Reddit is organized by topic, so you’re not going to see political posts when all you want to see are cute cats. And truthfully – it’s a happy place to visit and their alien is cute.

They have a feature in the New Yorker this week. The article highlights how the company is putting forth a real effort in cleaning up the conversation that takes place on the platform. Unlike other social-internet companies, the company isn’t claiming to be a bastion of “free speech.” They have rules and aren’t afraid to ban communities that violate those rules. On their approach to free speech:

“Does free speech mean literally anyone can say anything at any time?” … “Or is it actually more conducive to the free exchange of ideas if we create a platform where women and people of color can say what they want without thousands of people screaming, ‘Fuck you, light yourself on fire, I know where you live’? If your entire answer to that very difficult question is ‘Free speech,’ then, I’m sorry, that tells me that you’re not really paying attention.”

Maybe, just maybe they are on to something. Using the “Free Speech” shield doesn’t give the internet soldier the freedom to be a jerk or a perv. As we (the collective we – internet companies included) continue to work towards a healthier internet, maybe we should take out a page here and re-evaluate the concept of internet “free speech.” It’s surely not free in real life, maybe we should also acknowledge its parameters on the interwebs as well.