Six days after former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao stepped down from her position she took to the pages of The Washington Post to deliver a scathing op ed on the present state of the Internet.
In the long opinion, she openly states that the freedom espoused by the exchange of ideas inherent in the Internet has led to a takeover by those seeking to spread negativity and harassment.
The Internet started as a bastion for free expression. It encouraged broad engagement and a diversity of ideas. Over time, however, that openness has enabled the harassment of people for their views, experiences, appearances or demographic backgrounds. Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet. But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning.
The foundations of the Internet were laid on free expression, but the founders just did not understand how effective their creation would be for the coordination and amplification of harassing behavior. Or that the users who were the biggest bullies would be rewarded with attention for their behavior. Or that young people would come to see this bullying as the norm — as something to emulate in an effort to one-up each other.
It's been a rough couple of weeks for the self-proclaimed 'Front Page of the Internet'. Reddit's grumbling began earlier in the year as some provocative subreddits were banned based off of newly established harassment policies.
Pao said the reaction to those decisions brought her face to face with the harassment the policy was meant to combat.
Reddit is the Internet, and it exhibits all the good, the bad and the ugly of the Internet. It has been fighting this harassment in the trenches. In February, we committed to removing revenge pr0n from our site, and others followed our lead. In May, the company banned harassment of individuals from the site. Last month, we took down sections of the site that drew repeat harassers. Then, after making these policy changes to prevent and ban harassment, I, along with several colleagues, was targeted with harassing messages, attempts to post my private information online and death threats. These were attempts to demean, shame and scare us into silence.
Perhaps disappointingly, she didn't go into the politics around her resignation and did not touch on the swirl of recent theories that Pao was merely something of a patsy in the slew of recent changes.
However, she did end on a positive note.
In the battle for the Internet, the power of humanity to overcome hate gives me hope. I'm rooting for the humans over the trolls. I know we can win.
What do you make of all this?
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