Reddit's newly reminted CEO Steve Huffman has laid out a list of new rules designed to hopefully bring some order to the unruly site and quell the rebellion that forced interim CEO Ellen Pao out a few weeks ago.
The new changes are designed to deal with the vicious harassment and vitriol from certain groups that have not only spilled over into the rest of the Internet, but offline as well. The new rules move spam, doxxing, hate speech and "sexually suggestive posts featuring minors" off of any public-facing pages.
That they are even keeping these pages in any capacity is remarkable.
Mind you, this is what Pao was trying to do by barring revenge porn (posting nude pics of your ex out of spite) and in shutting down several groups that had spilled over into real-world harassment. One group in particular was /r/FatPeopleHate, where people posted photos of overweight people for the mob to ridicule.
Huffman and Pao were trying to regain control of a site already completely out of control and only one step above 4chan in terms of both vile content and user behavior. Quite frankly, there are times when the only difference between the two is the interface.
The problem was that these issues were never nipped in the bud. Once again, we see a case where people are so obsessed with the right to free speech that they never bothered to give a single thought to the responsibility that goes with it. And the longer you let these things thrive, the more powerful they become and, quite frankly, impossible to reign in.
Christopher "moot" Poole figured that out a while ago. 4chan, the community he created, which can be utterly brilliant at times, also turned on him more than once, posting a very embarrassing picture. And while 4chan has tremendous traffic, moot could never make money off the site because no advertiser would go near a site that routinely features pictures and animated GIFs of child porn and people being killed. Moot left 4chan several months back and is now working on new projects that he can hopefully control and use to generate some money.
Reddit, for all its success, is not profitable as of 2013. And it won't be as long as it has sections like /r/CoonTown and /r/WatchPeopleDie. Huffman and Pao want to make this site profitable, but I'm willing to bet no advertiser will touch them with the inmates running the asylum like they do now.
So now Huffman has the task of telling a bunch of online children 'no' when they've had unfettered permissiveness the whole time. Given how they behaved when /r/FatPeopleHate was shut down because members were harassing complete strangers offline, I expect these demands for behaving like something resembling a grown up will not go over well.
The anonymity of the Internet makes people very brave and very tough. It's a shame that the Shibboleth project never came to fruition. Shibboleth was a research project from Internet2, the larger research project for new Internet technologies. It acted as a single sign-on, so once you signed on to the Internet from your computer, you never had to sign in anywhere else. The Shibboleth technology would do a handshake with the destination server and introduce you, as it were.
It's unfortunate this project never went anywhere, because if every ISP used it, it would mark the end of pretty much every Internet bully. There would be no logging into Reddit with a fake name and a Gmail account that doesn't reveal who you are. Reddit would know exactly who you are.
Good luck reigning in the rabble, Huffman. I'd rather do something easier, like balance the federal budget.