Some critics of giant social media sites say that these platforms have effectively become the digital public square and that free speech on there, at least in the US, is protected by the First Amendment of the country’s Constitution.
And now, Reddit’s CTO seems like he might…agree?
In any case, what he is saying leads to the conclusion that this particular social network is more than “the public square” – in fact, according to Chris Slow, it’s a whole “city.”
A video showing Slow make these utterances was posted on the subreddit r/WatchRedditDie – dedicated to observing and documenting what the community says is the site’s abandonment of free speech and decline into censorship.
Double your web browsing speed with today's sponsor. Get Brave.
It’s clear from the clip that Slow speaks in the context of revealing that Reddit is still struggling with its own positioning in the industry and its identity as a social network, with the question of how to describe itself still hanging over its head.
But now, he says, the one definition the company has been settling on recently has been that of – a city.
“It’s a giant city that has neighborhoods, and neighborhoods all have their flavor, and as a city it’s gonna have all aspects of a city, it’s going to have every aspect of humanity present, and so you’re going to see the good and the bad, the point of a city is you do get to see the good and the bad, everything is out in the open, nothing is hidden.”
It’s unclear how, if at all, the First Amendment would apply to this “giant city” – but some commenters quickly called Slow out for what looks like blatant hypocrisy, given the multitude of hidden and quarantined subreddits (as Reddit prefers to call its communities once it punishes them in these ways.
Others thought that if the “city” metaphor stands, it must be a pretty nasty city, all things considered.
As for the “recency” of the idea, there’s a 7-year-old post by then Reddit CEO, who wrote at the time that he viewed the company as “a city-state.”
According to Yishan Wong, such a designation stood in contrast to greedy businesses who only want to make money at the expense of exploited and manipulated customers.
Reddit is these days earnestly attempting to “clean up” its platform to make it palatable to advertisers all for the sake of more money – so there goes any “contrast” with those other businesses.
And the “city-state” probably has its own laws, but they don’t seem overly concerned with free speech, as subreddits and users continue to be routinely banned and censored.