Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao stepped down in 2015 amid massive controversy over the social platform’s practices and policies, and a failed sexual harassment lawsuit filed earlier against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.
In a shocking interview with Mother Jones this week, Pao is back weighing in on the current state of affairs at Reddit.
A question that came up early in the Mother Jones interview – and more than two years into US President Donald Trump’s term in the White House – was whether a community on Reddit supportive of, and dedicated to the serving president, namely – The_Donald – should exist at all.
This may appear to be a curious question – if and when, that is, viewed in isolation from the ongoing acrimonious ideological divide in the US – but also, in view of Reddit’s overall policies that seem to favor liberal views, leaving conservative groups and supporters often banned, and protesting bias and discrimination – and with a feeling of being, at best, boxed in on the platform.
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But Pao – who is now CEO of Project Include – that says is designed to build diversity and inclusion into tech companies – and who by her own admission had not been on Reddit in the previous six months – had no doubt that the The_Donald subreddit should not exist.
Furthermore, Pao ventured a claim that the fact the hugely popular community – described as “toxic” in the Mother Jones article – is still online on Reddit was thanks to “fear” – that is, fear of “people who are running and using” The_Donald – but also allegedly of social media platform’s own board and investors.
Asked whether more government regulation would make content moderation issues “improve” – Pao said that it could give social media companies’ CEOs “an excuse to take on people and their bad behavior in a way that they wouldn’t have to explain and defend and perhaps they wouldn’t get as much abuse heaped on them, so they kind of have the justification out of their hands.”
One of the factors that contributed to Pao’s downfall at Reddit was what has since been as a sort of “pioneering practice” of policing users’ behavior both on and off social platforms – and deciding on how to treat users based on this criteria. In 2015, Pao moved to ban five subreddits for their “off-site behavior.” It seems Pao hasn’t lost her love of the ban hammer.