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tv   The Media Show  BBC News  April 4, 2021 3:30pm-4:01pm BST

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prince hamza's accused of being involved in plot to destabilise the country. a man is arrested following a second night of violence in northern ireland — the police describe an �*orchestrated attack�* on officers. and — a scaled back easter sunday, although the choir was able to perform at canterbury cathedral. while at the vatican, the pope called for vaccines to be shared with the world's poorest countries. now on bbc news, it's time for the media show. a handful of tech entrepreneurs in silicon valley have become the editors in chief of the internet. mark zuckerberg of facebook, jack dorsey of twitter, we talk about them and their companies all the time, but we very rarely hear from them. well today, we will.
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because steve huffman is the ceo of reddit, a multibillion—dollar company which is the seventh most visited website in america. so, what is reddick? is this what the internet should look like, a free space for free speech? a news platform where anything malicious orjust plain boring dwindles away? what we learn from the company's battle against conspiracy theories and white supremacist content. and how did a social media site come to take on and humble wall street? steve, welcome to the show. my pleasure. i'm honoured to be here today. let's start at the beginning of your illustrious career. you're two roommates in uni on the american east coast who came up with and coded a social media site that is today worth billions, i'm not talking about facebook, i'm talking about you, steve. take us back to 2025 spring break of your senior year, you're starting with the guy a lot of people would know him because he is the husband of serena williams. you came up with the idea
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for a website that would be the front page of the internet. how would you explain reddit to someone who's never seen you before? so, reddit is complex. depending on how long i have for this answer, i'll start with the short version and maybe we can work our way into the longer version. sure. but reddit is thousands of communities. it's a place where people can find a community for pretty much any interest and passion that they may have. so, our communities range from the familiar news, politics, sports, to internet culture, communities that may not have representation off—line at all. and to support. so, communities for people who are parents for the first time or are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. places where folks may not have a lot of places to turn to elsewhere online or off—line. so, reddit, it's a little bit of everything. but at its core it's communities and it's people. what was the question to
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which reddit was the answer in 2005? what were you setting out to do that no one else was doing or no—one else was doing as well? in 2005 our vision for reddit was different than what it is today. we only had a single community. so in 2005 the way i would describe reddit is that it's a place where you could find new and interesting content online. and i take a little exception to your opening, being described as editor—in—chief. because we created reddit as a reaction against traditional media. we specifically did not want to be the gatekeepers. we believe that people, our users, were the people with the most haste or in the best position to determine what's interesting or not. when i'm selling these
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stories to people on high faluting news broadcasts, i often have to explain, not only the enormous reach of reddit but also the demographics, and there might be an assumption from people who look at it to think that reddit is a young persons�* place. what do you know about the demographics of those sub reddits, those thousands of communities that you have? sure. it�*s interesting you frame it as what we know, because one of the things that i think is unique about reddit is that we don�*t insist that our users tell us their age or gender or location. though we do know these things through surveys and things like that. so, ouraudience is, age—wise, we call them emerging adults. we tend to pick people up towards the end of high school. when they are in their late teens, early 20s, when a young adult starts to develop their own opinions about the world. when they start to separate from their parents. and then we just keep them. so the age range, our sweet spot is basically somebody in their 20s, late teens, early 30s. although that continues
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to grow and expand. and we skew male. but it�*s becoming more balanced, roughly 60—a0 in both the us and uk at this point. i mention game stop and i should explain for those who aren�*t familiar. they may have seen headlines a few weeks earlier this year. basically a reddit community called wall street bets started to call on members to buy stock in a company called game stop. this is a bricks and mortar high street game store in the us that was doing badly on the stock market. and so many reddit users started buying stocks that the share price went up. at one point it went from $20 to $400 and reddit users started making money against game stop. that�*s where the anti—establishment bit comes in. you�*ve been very frank about this
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and you said that you were late to realise what was going on. when did you start paying attention, do you think? i was late, because i was in it. so, i was personally late to observe that the story had become a mainstream media story. but wall street bets is a community that specialises in high—risk, high reward trading. it among many financial and investing—related communities on reddit. many of which are more conservative than wall street bets. wall street bets is one of my guilty pleasures on reddit. i�*ve been watching them go through their machinations over the last couple of years, get excited about particular stocks are not.
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and game stop was one of those over the last year. so it was a little bit of a surprise to me when that conversation metastasized and became a national or even global conversation. it�*s always i think a little peculiar to me when reddit leaks out into the real world. maybe it shouldn�*t because at this point we�*re quite large, but i think i still have memories from when we were significantly smaller. it�*s an extraordinary moment for you as founder, ceo, at the centre of this enormous story of global significance about the nature of financial markets. i read reports that you came under some pressure from wall street figures to take this community down. is that true and if so how did that pressure manifest? because i can relate going back to how i opened the show as a newspaper editor — when people don�*t like stuff, they ring you up and say stop. is that what happened to you? i�*m sure the sentiment was there but it didn�*t make it directly to me. i know the hedge funds that
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were on the wrong side of those trades were having a bad day. and i�*m sure that was the feeling they had. it wasn�*t something that made it directly to me and it was never something we seriously considered. let�*s talk about your business model, which has been hugely successful, i read in the financial times that you raised another $250 million in february. your basic model, i want to understand to what extent it�*s simmilar to some of the other advertising—driven models on the internet age that we have. other social media websites essentially advertise companies they want on the site and they sell their information on to third parties and they sell targeted advertising space on their platform. how does reddit make its money? so, we are in the advertising business. and so, our customers are advertisers, customers, brands that you would all be familiar with, for sure. in the uk right now, this is netflix, samsung, google, among others. we are different from the other platforms in that our business is not predicated on the harvesting of personal information.
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0n reddit, we don�*t have a lot of personal information, and that�*s important to us. privacy has long been one of our values. but as it relates to advertising, advertisers come to reddit where they can connect with their customers around common interests. so, for example, we have a community called makeup addiction. as the name implies, it�*s for people who are really into makeup. if you are at a makeup company, by the way the people who work at makeup companies love makeup so much that they choose to work at a makeup company. it�*s a natural fit for them personally and professionally to be in that community. and so for most brands there is a community in their space, if not directly for them, where the advertiser can find their customer. so we don�*t have to play games around targeting like the other platforms might have to. we had an interesting bit convivial friction i think it�*s fair to say
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to talk about describing you as editor in chief. i�*m pleased to see you smiling as i say this, i was hoping you grab onto phrase. let me be honest, i cover big tech companies for a living and this is a source of some beef among some of your illustrious peers, mark zuckerberg back in 2016 said facebook is not a media company. i would argue that a lot of people argue that it�*s having to make more and more editorial decisions. let�*s look at some of the decisions that you�*ve had to make around trade—offs of free speech and then we can talk about the semantics of editor—in—chief. like wikipedia, reddit posts are monitored as you said and essentially regulated by volunteer moderators. who are your moderators? reddit has multiple layers of moderation. the word moderator means something on reddit. 0n reddit, moderators are users who create and moderate communities. they are users with some extra
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powers that they have inherited through being the creators of communities. 0n either side of the moderators are two other important groups. above them is reddit inc. this is our centralised moderation team. these are the people who work at reddit who enforce our platform—wide policies, who have access to tools and this and that to enforce our policies at scale. then below the moderators are the communities themselves. so every post on reddit has an up and down arrow. and every post on reddit starts at zero and has to earn its visibility. 0r also could be rejected by the community. it either has to get enough up votes to become popular or may actually receive a whole bunch of down votes and not be seen by anybody. actually, most content on reddit is downvoted by users long before the moderators see it. and then following there, the moderator actually remove quite a bit of content before we see it.
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so there are layers, yeah. there�*s an ecosystem there. and i think this combination of users and employees and people and machines is the only way to scale moderation. quite frankly, i think people, our users, are the only people with enough context and taste to it make some of the difficult decisions that need to be made. you�*ve thought deeply about the limits of free speech. you�*ve spoken about it repeatedly. in 2015 you said, i quote, i don�*t think we should silence people just because their viewpoint is something we disagree with. there is value in the conversation and we as a society need to confront these issues was up possibly open racism on similar size with w gave a nuanced answer and it�*s important to convey that this was nuanced. you said, "the way it we think of speech is to separate behaviour from beliefs.
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this means on reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so. when users�* actions conflict with our policies we take action." at what point would a racial slur conflict with your policies? i�*ll answer your question directly and then i�*ll provide context. it�*s easy for me to say it, when a racial slur is used with malice or as a hateful word. that would be in violation of our content policies, and indeed it is. of course there are usages of such words that are not in violation of our policies. when people are talking about the words, when people are talking about speech. when they are used among certain groups as a term of endearment. when it�*s a musical lyric — and things like that.
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talking about limiting free speech. for sure. and so the context is important. i think it�*s important that one of the things that would be damaging is if we said, "this word is not allowed. regardless of the context." because i think that�*s missing an opportunity for society to evolve and for us to even have these conversations about speech. and i think conversations about speech are really important to have because it�*s among i think, not only the most complex topics that we as society need to wrestle with but it�*s also one of the bedrock foundations of our society. as you quote me over the years, there is indeed i think an evolution to my thinking. one of our first values at reddit is "evolve". i think we have to be honest with ourselves in that society changes, our thinking changes, our ability to articulate our thinking changes. and circumstances arise
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which you can�*t predict. you might get a president who challenges some of the limits of free speech, which donald trump very much did. let me ask you another example, because it shows how your thinking has evolved. in 2017 you banned a community calling itself a support group for men that were posting misogynistic comments and even advocating rape. why did that one go beyond the pale? why was that when taken down? so, in that family of communities, we�*d seen actually a pattern that is i think fairly common online, which is a community starts off as one thing and evolves into another, worse and ultimately problematic or really troublesome thing.
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in this case, we had communities that were started for men. for lonely men trying to find their place in the world. looking for support — and that loneliness turns to bitterness, that bitterness turns into anger and then you know, at the point where we ban them, we saw that trending towards potentially real violence. i think this is one of the things that�*s important, is that much of the time, probably most of the time, a community that we ban was not something that we would ban on the day of its creation but evolved into that situation. i think it requires close monitoring and a lot of this context of having been through it a few times now. and so, our content policies at reddit prohibit violence and inciting violence and glorifying violence. and bullying and harassments. and so, often the communities we ban are violating those rules or are very close to doing so. i should say in the spirit of fullness and frankness that we are talking about a bunch of controversial examples. these examples are not at all representative of reddit on the whole. i looked an hour ago before talking
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to you and i saw a lovely video of a parrot plucking away at a cat. i should say for people who are listening, i don�*t want to give a false impression that this is all you see on reddit. it�*s very much a minority of what you see. lastjune you took the decision to ban a community called the donald. it was one of your biggest communities. three quarters of million users, much bigger than the circulation of most british newspapers, for comparison for people listening to us right now. for several years it had originated many of the trump—supported memes that had gone viral on facebook and twitter. can you just talk me through your decision to ban that group? you must�*ve known the press would see this as reddit censoring trump, and indeed trump supporters may have said that? sure. thank you for adding the context before. i will observe that reddit is people. and like people, reddit is overwhelmingly good. it�*s actually one of my favourite things in life that i�*ve learned from reddit, is that people in the right context are funnier and more interesting and more supportive than i think we give them credit for.
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so, ultimately, we�*re talking about a very small number of people, who we want to make sure, if they are in violation of our policies, are not on our platform. and if they are perhaps making trouble but not yet in violation of our policies, that their influence and voice is in proportion to their numbers. that is to say, fringe views should be fringe. so, the donald. the donald is a community dedicated to supporters of donald trump. it was formed i believe in 2016, maybe 2015. we did ultimately ban it in the spring of 2020. though at that point it was a dead community. it was dormant and had been that way since the fall of 2019. but we had certainly had our challenges with the donald over the years. that community among other things you mentioned, the memes, the news, that stuff by and large was within the bounds of our content policy. it was also a community of trolls, of people deliberately testing our boundaries, testing the rules, antagonizing the company
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or the greater reddit community. and those are often some of the most challenging communities to deal with because they�*re savvy enough to know with the rules are. they try to find where the line is, they walk right up to it and they stick their nose over it. and they effectively are bating you to take action. and this was a challenge. because this is also a community dedicated to the president of the united states. and as we talked about before, political speech is notjust sacred in the united states and in liberal democracies for top but it�*s intertwined with reddit. and we believe political speech
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is extremely important. i have a four—year—old so i hear you loud and clear. can i put to you that what you are really describing is your extraordinary power. i hear you, i understand what you�*re saying, you are not conventional media companies. of course you don�*t commission content you are community driven you have the power to through yourjudgment, through your humbly submit to you your editorialjudgment, you have the power to allow communities of 750,000 people to either exist or not to exist. that�*s a power where if you�*re a kind of romantic like me and you watch things like citizen kane, used or believed to newspaperman in the 20th century — you are in a sense editors. you are in a sense making subjective decisions about what should and shouldn�*t be online albeit in a different context, albeit whilst being community driven as you are. i think if you are also a romantic like me you have a pathological sometimes detrimental dedication to the values behind our reasoning. and in this case, authenticity and openness and truthfulness. it�*s true, we do make decisions. and when we make decisions in this case about a political community, we weigh those decisions very heavily. my preference honestly, over the long term as we�*ve done
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in many areas of reddit is to find a way for the greater community to make those decisions themselves. 0ur communities, they break the rules, they enforce those rules, they create the culture. they don�*t yet have the ability to make these really large decisions. 0k. a couple questions about the future of the web. to my mind there are a couple of very big and loud arguments about the future of the web. one is between what you might call the california and the western web where you�*ve been one of the pioneers and one of the leading entrepreneurs and the chinese version of the web which is a much more authoritarian, frankly. and you have a system where the internet is much more useful surveillance and control.
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do you worry looking at chinese investment in africa, parts of asia, do you worry that the california web is losing some momentum to the chinese web? i do worry about that. i think shutting down the internet to protect and entrench power is i think, probably the least democratic thing i can think of. the internet as we know it, the western internet grew up in the shadow of democracy. reddit the platform grew up in the shadow of democracy. there�*s an idealism that i have that runs through our company and runs through a lot of the internet platforms that we know today. about freedom and accessibility. and i do think that is at risk. and so i look at the situation very much as you describe. i think there is conflict about the future of the internet. one of my dreams through reddit or other work is to fulfil the promise of the internet, which is to connect people around the world. and to connect, to share at first information and ideas which i think the internet is largely fulfilling that promise and hopefully down the road, economic opportunity. i do think that is a threat.
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both reddit and i personally and hopefully everybody who cares about the internet will stand up and fight for these values. i think we�*re perfectly capable of disagreeing on the details and how moderation works and how we should think about speech, we would need to work through all those things but the internet needs to be defended globally as well. both reddit and i personally and hopefully everybody who cares about the internet will stand up and fight for these values. i think we�*re perfectly capable of disagreeing on the details and how moderation works and how we should think about speech, we would need to work through all those things but the internet needs to be defended globally as well. there is another principal argument which is about the role of privacy and whatever future web we are going to have. they seems to me to be quite a big disagreement about tim cook of apple and mark zuckerberg about how much privacy matters and you know that tim cook is proposing changes which facebook deals compromises the openness of the web.
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i just wonder what your fought two thoughts are on that where we are moving to a word in which privacy is pete something people care more about and something precious may be lost if we do that. i spent the last decade worried that people didn�*t care about privacy. as i watched these other platforms grow past reddit. we are 16 years old so we are as old as all of them and older than many of them. and we cared about privacy to such an extent that it probably hamstrung our business for a while.
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probably stunted growth, to be fair. so, i watched these companies grow and these companies and i thought man, maybe we are just this weird corner of the internet that is too idealistic for our own good. maybe these customer, users don�*t care. because i see all the information they�*re revealing on these other platforms, maybe they don�*t care. it turns out they do care, theyjust didn�*t know what they were doing. and when they learned what was happening with their data and who it was being sold to and how it was being used, they were very, very upset. and i among them was upset. to some extent i do feel vindicated now. i feel it�*s entirely possible to succeed of it internet platform and respect users privacy put up we can even build successful ad space and respect peoples privacy. i have to admit, if facebook is going to fight for the open internet, great, although i don�*t know if they have a lot of credibility in that instance. i admire apple�*s consistent stance on privacy. to be fair i think apple can do better as well for them i think we can all do better. i�*ll summarise by saying i�*m happy that privacy is top of mind for consumers, for platforms and for our governments.
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because it is supremely important. steve huffman, reddit founder and ceo, thank you very much indeed for your time today. it was my pleasure, i really enjoyed chatting with you. and thank you to our studio engineer and our producer. i�*ll be back at the same time next week. see you then. it has been a cloudy day today. cool there as well. the really cold are north of scotland. proper hour arctic air that will sweep its way down across the whole of the country during monday. the risk of some wintry showers. today with the wind is not coming in off the north sea it has been much warmerfor eastern parts of england in the sunshine and we are ending the day with some sunshine here as well. that patchy rain further north sweeps further south of the night. the winds pick
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up, the air gets colder and the showers turn more and more wintry even to lower levels in northern scotland. frost, ice and scotland. frost for the far north of england. not quite so cold elsewhere. cloud by the end of the night. mostly rain. that pushes through and then sunshine and wintry showers during monday. snow falling in northern scotland. wintry showers down those north sea coasts. some filtering into northern ireland and heading over the irish sea. many inland areas will be dry and sunny in the all areas will be windy. strong to gale force winds. temperatures will be lower. 3—9 but when you add on the strength of the wind it will probably feel more like the middle of winter. despite the sunshine. in the clearer skies quite why the other night will have a widespread frost early on tuesday. we might see patches of wintry showers. snow sitting across the north of scotland. a few more of these wintry
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showers draped around northern and western coats and down those north sea coasts. more wintry showers heading inland into england and later into wales and the midlands. temperatures are on a par with lows of monday. still windy and still going to feel cold. it is april, after all, so it is worth pointing out that any impacts from snow are more likely to be felt across northern scotland and that is where we are more likely to have some snow lying and visits because of the strength of the wind. there is really cold arctic winds get sucked away on wednesday to the north sea and this is where our weather starts to come from on wednesday and thursday. more from the atlantic saw so it will not be as cold. not very one. it won�*t windy in many places will be dry on wednesday. patchy rain in the north on thursday.
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this is bbc news. the headlines at four... documents for a return to normal life — the fa cup final is set be be among the pilot events for the government�*s covid passport scheme in england. a traffic light system for countries is being planned for the re—introduction of international travel from england. but a warning not to book foreign holidays just yet. royal crisis injordan — a former crown prince says he�*s under house arrest. prince hamzah�*s accused of being involved in a plot to destabilise the country. a man is arrested following a second night of violence in northern ireland — the police describe an "orchestrated attack" on officers. and a scaled back easter sunday, although the choir


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