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Reddit CEO doubles down on allowing porn after platform was included on 'Dirty Dozen List'

Reddit CEO doubles down on allowing porn after platform was included on 'Dirty Dozen List'

This photo illustration shows the logo of Reddit on a mobile phone in Arlington, Virginia on January 29, 2021. ( | AFP via Getty Images/ Oliver Douliery

Although anti-pornography advocates have accused Reddit of normalizing and sharing incest and non-consensually recorded images, the online platform’s CEO Steve Huffman says he will take the “difficult decision” of allowing pornography because “sex is universal.”

“There are difficult decisions to make in this sphere, but we think they’re worth making, as opposed to saying, you know, ‘No sex at all,’ for example,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a recent interview with Axios.

Asked if hosting pornographic content on Reddit would ever change, Huffman responded, “Sex is universal, and like many topics on Reddit, sex is one of those topics that’s often not well-served online or offline.”

Reddit was included on the National Center on Sexual Exploitation’s 2021 Dirty Dozen List of mainstream contributors to sexual exploitation for being a “hub of exploitation.”

NCOSE argued in a statement that its researchers and other investigative reports have found “countless” forums dedicated to specific topics on Reddit that normalize and depict incest, “non-consensually recorded and/or shared images, pornography … and prostitution promotion.”

The group adds that many subreddits also “normalize and even host child sexual abuse material.”

“If Reddit insists on allowing pornography, it must verify the identity of the persons who upload these images or videos, along with the consent of anyone in pornographic images or videos,” NCOSE Director of Corporate and Strategic Initiatives, Lina Nealon contends. 

“This should be standard operating procedure for any technology company, let alone one that allows pornography.”

Huffman claims Reddit doesn’t want to promote or feature exploitative pornography.

“You can look at [porn] as exploitative. And, indeed, much of it is. And that’s not the content that we want on Reddit,” Huffman said in the interview. “But there’s another aspect that’s empowering. And these are people sharing stories of themselves, pictures of themselves. And we are perfectly supportive of that.”

Nealon says Reddit, which doubled in value from $3 billion in 2019 to $6 billion in 2020, must find a way to better protect its underage users “from stumbling onto this explicit or even illegal content.”

“Ironically, despite the CEO’s acknowledgment that much of pornography is exploitative, he hasn’t made any public effort to stem the harmful and abusive content on its site,” Nealon adds.

Huffman said in the interview that Reddit wants “people to be safe.”

“[W]e have rules on Reddit — no involuntary sexualization,” he assured. “And if anybody makes those sorts of reports to us, we take those very seriously.” He added that the website has a policy of banning the sexualization of minors.

According to NCOSE, Reddit uses volunteer content moderators instead of investing in technology widely used by other tech companies to identify and block sexually exploitative material.

Nealon asserts that Reddit should use a portion of its vast profits to make the platform safer for all users.

Major social media companies, including Facebook and Instagram, officially ban pornographic content but have been accused of not enforcing their rules consistently.

Recently, executives of MindGeek, the parent company of the pornography website Pornhub, testified before a Canadian ethics committee over allegations that it profited off of child sexual abuse, rape, sex-trafficking and non-consensually distributed content.

In a 12-page letter to the Canadian Parliament’s Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, a collective of 104 survivors of sexual exploitation and 525 non-governmental organizations from 65 nations called for a criminal investigation into MindGeek.

Multiple reports have emerged revealing how Pornhub, one of the largest pornography websites in the world, has allowed illegal content on its site, has been slow to verify consent and remove videos.

Earlier this year, the social media platform Twitter was sued after it took days to remove child exploitation material that was shared thousands of times on its platform. 

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