Controversy Looms as Reddit Stands by Freedom of Speech

The self-proclaimed “home page of the internet”, Reddit, has come under recent scrutiny for their questionable conduct in handling controversial discussion boards. Founded in 2005, by two college grads, the site offers user-generated news stories and pictures in forums dubbed “subreddits”. The recent controversy erupted in the last few days over subreddits that contained inappropriate pictures of a voyeuristic nature.

Following public outrage of these message boards, Reddit soon moved to eliminate the discussions and attached pictures. To make matters worse for the company, a noted contributor to the site, Adrian Chen, tracked and confronted Michael Brutsch, also known as Violentacrez, the man who managed the inappropriate forums on Reddit. Subsequently, Chen released an article on his personal website exposing the details of their phone interaction and the charges of ill-willed conduct.

The social news website soon lashed out on Chen, blocking any links to his articles and previous posts on Reddit; this done seemingly to protect Brutsch who is known to have close ties to many of the higher ups in the company. Furthermore, in a move that has baffled many since this dispute erupted, Reddit has stood by their first amendment right to freedom of speech in defense of Michael Brutsch’s actions; this on the heels of their grievance against Adrian Chen who publicly condemned Brutsch’s actions.

While Reddit’s right to freedom of speech is valid according to the U.S. constitution, this company also has a moral obligation to their patrons to filter, track, and eliminate inappropriate content and conduct on its site.  This responsibility spans farther than the issue of patron misconduct on Brutsch’s behalf, but Reddit’s seemingly insincere actions in condoning his behavior by standing by the first amendment.

Encouraging photos and discussion of under-aged girls and female up-skirt shots is unacceptable in every aspect of our lives including the workplace. Why is this instance any different?  Social media sites including Facebook and YouTube enable users with the power to report offensive images and videos from their sites. Why are Adrian Chen’s actions any different? Consider these questions when weighing in on the social site controversy.