Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has said it refuses to be an arbiter of content. The company said it would allow all speech from political leaders to remain on its platform, even if the posts were untruthful or problematic, because such content was newsworthy and in the public’s interest to read.
Facebook has since come under increasing fire for its stance. Over the past few weeks, many large advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Verizon, Levi Strauss and Unilever, have said they plan to pause advertising on the social network because they were unhappy with its handling of hate speech and misinformation.
Andrea Hickerson, associate dean of the College of Information and Communications at the University of South Carolina, said the growing actions by social media companies would help cut down “on the noise and unwarranted confusion around the truth.”
“There is a lot of popular rhetoric about ‘the media’s’ negative impact on civil discourse, but now social media companies are acknowledging that some of its own users are the problem,” she said.
Reddit, which was founded 15 years ago and has more than 430 million regular users, has long been one corner of the internet that was willing to host all kinds of communities. No subject — whether it was video games or makeup or power-washing driveways — was too small to discuss. People could simply sign up, browse the site anonymously and participate in any of the 130,000 active subreddits.
Yet that freewheeling position led to many issues of toxic speech and objectionable content across the site, for which Reddit has consistently faced criticism. In the past, the company hosted forums that promoted racism against black people and openly sexualized underage children, all in the name of free speech.