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Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Slams Reddit's Free Speech Policy

01/08/2015 13:36 BST | Updated 01/08/2015 13:59 BST

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has criticised Reddit for the way it has handled its controversial subreddits, some of which propagate racism, homophobia and misogynism.

Wales told The Huffington Post UK that the so-called front page of the internet, has let a lot of "unpleasant" people have free reign on the platform for too long.

His comments follow an AMA announcement made by Reddit's CEO Steve Huffman earlier this month outlining the site's decision to refrain from banning all offensive content.

Under the new rules, controversial subreddits including ‘r/misogyny' and ‘r/coontown,’ will not be taken down but be shielded from public view by requiring people to login to access the content.

On the day, some Redditors protested Huffman's call as an act of censorship.

However, Wales defines censorship a little differently and argues that Reddit should have executed a stronger policy on hate speech.

"Censorship involves a government using force or someone using a threat of intimidation or violence to suppress speech. That's a very different thing to saying that this is a private platform, where we are not welcoming hate speech.

"In the case of Reddit," he adds "they needed to set this tone a long time ago."

"They should have said much earlier that if you want to do this thing, go do it somewhere else. It's not appropriate for this community.

"And I don't think at all that that is censorship...because I draw the distinction between the use of force to prevent someone from speaking, versus saying not in my house..."

When asked about Reddit's choice to be a bastion of free speech Wales added "I think it was an unfortunate business decision that will destroy them in the long run..."

However, Huffman strongly believes that the site should not be a refection of one person's world view. During the AMA, he stated:

As we grew, I became increasingly uncomfortable projecting my worldview on others. More practically, I didn’t have time to pass judgement on everything, so I decided to judge nothing.

So we entered a phase that can best be described as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This worked temporarily, but once people started paying attention, few liked what they found. A handful of painful controversies usually resulted in the removal of a few communities, but with inconsistent reasoning and no real change in policy.

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