Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong Should Shut Up [OP-ED]

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So Yishan Wong has once again bounced onto Reddit to put in his two cents. His latest piece on the current state of Reddit affairs comes in the form of a laughing attack on Redditors who got rid of Ellen Pao.

I’ll do a TL;DR at the top of the page like Reddit ought to do, instead of annoyingly down at the bottom. #littlekindnesses Incidentally, if you want to find out why I think former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong should shut up on the matter, you have to go to the bottom anyhow. #suckstobeyou.

TL;DR: Ellen Pao was actually defending the freedom of speech and as an Asian woman, actually acted as insulation against people who might claim Reddit was misogynist/racist.

Here’s the text:

How’s everyone doing? This is AWESOME!
There’s something I neglected to tell you all this time (“executive privilege”), but I’m declassifying a lot of things these days. Back around the time of the /r/creepshots[1]debacle, I wrote to /u/spez[2] for advice. I had met him shortly after I had taken the job, and found him to be a great guy. Back in the day when reddit was small, the areas he oversaw were engineering, product, and the business aspects – those are the same things I tend to focus on in a company (each CEO has certain areas of natural focus, and hires others to oversee the rest). As a result, we were able to connect really well and have a lot of great conversations – talking to him was really valuable.
Well, when things were heating around the /r/creepshots[3]thing and people were calling for its banning, I wrote to him to ask for advice. The very interesting thing he wrote back was “back when I was running things, if there was anything racist, sexist, or homophobic I’d ban it right away. I don’t think there’s a place for such things on reddit. Of course, now that reddit is much bigger, I understand if maybe things are different.”
I’ve always remembered that email when I read the occasional posting here where people say “the founders of reddit intended this to be a place for free speech.” Human minds love originalism, e.g. “we’re in trouble, so surely if we go back to the original intentions, we can make things good again.” Sorry to tell you guys but NO, that wasn’t their intention at all ever. Sucks to be you, /r/coontown[4] – I hope you enjoy voat!

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The free speech policy was something I formalized because it seemed like the wiser course at the time. It’s worth stating that in that era, we were talking about whether it was ok for people to post creepy pictures of women taken legally in public. That’s shitty, but it’s a far cry from the extremes of hate that some parts of the site host today. It seemed that allowing creepers to post (anonymized) pictures of women taken in public, in a relatively small subreddit that never showed up on the front page, was a small price to pay for making it clear that we were a place welcoming of all opinions and discourse.
Having made that decision – much of reddit’s current condition is on me. I didn’t anticipate what (some) redditors would decide to do with freedom. reddit has become a lot bigger – yes, a lot better – AND a lot worse. I have to take responsibility.
But… the most delicious part of this is that on at least two separate occasions, the board pressed /u/ekjp[5] to outright ban ALL the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge. She resisted, knowing the community, claiming it would be a shitshow. Ellen isn’t some “evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil” as was often depicted. She was approved by the board and recommended by me because when I left, she was the only technology executive anywhere who had the chops and experience to manage a startup of this size, AND who understood what reddit was all about. As we can see from her post-resignation activity[6] , she knows perfectly well how to fit in with the reddit community and is a normal, funny person – just like in real life – she simply didn’t sit on reddit all day because she was busy with her day job.
Ellen was more or less inclined to continue upholding my free-speech policies. /r/fatpeoplehate[7] was banned for inciting off-site harassment, not discussing fat-shaming. What all the white-power racist-sexist neckbeards don’t understand is that with her at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism: she is literally Silicon Valley’s #1 Feminist Hero, so any “SJWs” would have a hard time attacking the company for intentionally creating a bastion (heh) of sexist/racist content. She probably would have tolerated your existence so long as you didn’t cause any problems – I know that her long-term strategies were to find ways to surface and publicize reddit’s good parts – allowing the bad parts to exist but keeping them out of the spotlight. It would have been very principled – the CEO of reddit, who once sued her previous employer for sexual discrimination, upholds free speech and tolerates the ugly side of humanity because it is so important to maintaining a platform for open discourse. It would have been unassailable.
Well, now she’s gone (you did it reddit!), and /u/spez[8] has the moral authority as a co-founder to move ahead with the purge. We tried to let you govern yourselves and you failed, so now The Man is going to set some Rules. Admittedly, I can’t say I’m terribly upset.

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– End, Yishan Rant-

-Begin Jeff Rant:

Okay, so now that we have that whole diatribe out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks: Yishan Wong needs to shut up. I get that it’s sort of exciting to have a CEO dish out the dirt like he don’t give a damn, but it’s doing some pot-stirring at a time in which it doesn’t need to be done. See, I don’t think he’s wrong in a sense: I do like the free speech aspect of Reddit and always have, I don’t like it being used as an organizational tool for off-site harassment. Right now, for whatever reason, Yishan is angry. He is angry at Redditors for their lynch mob against Ellen Pao and he’s angry at Alexis Ohanian for the manner in which shit got real. And while it makes for good articles for faux journalist types like myself, it damages Reddit.

I like Reddit. I think it’s a great site … or at least used to be. I didn’t care for the hate-based sites, but I think it always spoke to the higher idea of Reddit that they remained. As they say, if you don’t like the show, change the channel. Fat People Hate got too popular for its own good (as I said it would) and got shut down. Yishan claims it was because of off-site antics, I will always maintain that it more likely had to do with money, especially considering how the site is shaping up going forward.

But that’s the thing: Reddit has pissed a lot of their core supporters off by withholding information and being obtuse, which they’ve apologized for previously. But the opposite isn’t exactly the right answer either. To have Yishan (who it must be pointed out, doesn’t speak for Reddit in an official capacity) come in and dish, makes things worse.

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I don’t know what his endgame is: he dislikes Alexis, apparently likes Steve Huffman and really liked Ellen Pao. Does any of that matter though? Will it help anything going forward to mock people who reacted angrily? The people who were gonna defect for being hatemongers looking for a platform already took off, why poke the moderates? Reddit should actively be invested in healing itself right now. It should be about figuring what the right answer is for its user base and then figuring how to monetize off of that — as opposed to shaping Reddit to look like a site that can make money. When Yishan comes in and essentially says your last chance to be oppressively candid just left town, he isn’t doing anything more than riling up what’s left, even if that’s not why they are on Reddit. See, the bigger issue was never about hatred or Reddit being chock full of haters — it was about fighting for the ability to have a forum for free speech as awkward as that may be. You don’t get that potential in all its ugly glory almost anywhere else on the internet. Many of the people still on Reddit who are angry, aren’t super-fit Neo-Nazis, they’re regular people who want the site they used to have … because it was the closest thing they could find to being free.

Of course the irony of it all is that I am telling Yishan Wong to shut up while arguing for Reddit to be more open to free speech. Maybe we should all shut up for a few days and clear our heads. This business lately has everyone on edge.

I don’t know, share this if you want.

P.S. The text was grabbed from Gawker’s coverage of Yishan’s rant. Just thought you might want to know.