Popular social-networking and news site Reddit is adopting a new antiharassment policy, after a company survey found that some users shied away from the site and wouldn't recommend it to other people because of abusive posts and content.
The new policy, announced in a company blog post Thursday, prohibits "attacks and harassment of individuals through Reddit" and follows a 15,000-user survey conducted by the site last month. That study found that negative comments appended to posts "have made people uncomfortable contributing" to the site and that the No. 1 reason users don't recommend Reddit is because "they want to avoid exposing friends to hate and offensive content."
"The community wants these improvements," Reddit's interim CEO, Ellen Pao, said in a separate statement. "We believe less harassment means more participation, leading to more free expression, better conversations and better communities."
Founded in 2005, Reddit, which had nearly 170 million visitors to its site last month, has long seen itself as a venue where people could share whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. That emphasis on freedom of expression has attracted people who've weighed in on everything from politics to food to sports. The site has more than 9,000 active communities, called subreddits, where participants can discuss topics and share content.
Reddit isn't alone in evolving its policies to deal with disturbing and abusive content. Many of the world's largest social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, are fighting to eliminate hate-filled messages and other disturbing posts on their pages. In March, Twitterand added a tool designed to . That same month, Facebook updated its community standards to , hate speech and graphic content, among other things. It's all part of .
In Thursday's post about the new antiharassment policy, Reddit said it now defines harassment as:
Systematic and/or continued actions to torment or demean someone in a way that would make a reasonable person (1) conclude that Reddit is not a safe platform to express their ideas or participate in the conversation, or (2) fear for their safety or the safety of those around them.
Under the new policy, users who are harassed or see inappropriate behavior will now be able to email Reddit employees who serve as moderators and can remove content and also ban abusive users from the site.
In its blog post, Reddit emphasized its free-speech roots. The new policy "will have no immediately noticeable impact on more than 99.99 percent of our users," the company said. "It is specifically designed to prevent attacks against people, not ideas. It is our challenge to balance free expression of ideas with privacy and safety as we seek to maintain and improve the quality and range of discourse on Reddit."
That discourse seemed as robust as ever Thursday. The announcement of the new policy led to scores of comments within the Reddit community.