Reddit TechCrunch learned that ads for President Donald Trump are due to run ahead of the 2020 presidential election, despite staff concerns. Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, addressed some of these employee concerns at an all-hands meeting viewed by TechCrunch last week.
“I know for many of you [Trump] is simply a symbol of hatred and there is no getting around it – what it is, ”said Huffman. As a result, many of you have a very real anger at him or fear of where the country is going or sadness about where the country is going and believe me, I share a lot of these emotions in the state of our country – the polarization of political discourse , the inflammatory rhetoric, the incompetence of our government. It feels like we̵
Even so, Huffman spoke about how struggling to balance his personal beliefs with his duty as CEO of Reddit. He pointed to Reddit’s long history with Trump, which began with r / The_Donald in the 2016 election.
“Most of the updates to our content guidelines have been tied to them in some form or way, including the most recent,” said Huffman.
The decision to allow Trump ads comes within months of Huffman saying Reddit does not tolerate “hatred, racism and violence, and while we still have a lot to do to combat these on our platform, our values are clear. “
“When I think about the future role of Reddit and the role we can play in the world, I think this is the best way to make it happen Many of these problems actually arise in the upcoming election, ”said Huffman. “There are a number of things we can and do to ensure fair elections and I think we have a very important role to play. As I mentioned in my email about Black Lives Matter two months ago that we later shared, thinking about the polls – this is one of the areas where Reddit can really lean on and make a difference. […] I know that you might not agree with me on some of these points or follow logic and I can’t take that away from you and I’m not trying to diminish that in any way. I’m trying with Reddit to try to align our beliefs with our platform and see if we can be the best possible participant in the upcoming elections. “
And that means allowing political ads. The ads will likely be in the form of a homepage takeover, which is the top link on the website, but not the sidebar display ads, Huffman explained. Additionally, Reddit allows reserved purchases for which the Trump campaign must work directly with the sales team. These ads contain comments so that users can interact with the ad.
“I hope this will move the conversation off or make the conversation more effective – not just that these ads are a one-way delivery mechanism because they’re advertised elsewhere on the Internet, but more of a two-way conversation,” Huffman said.
What Reddit doesn’t allow, however, is auctions, which previously resulted in advertisers bombarding essentially the entire website with their ads.
“We discussed not having any political ads on Reddit and me at all I certainly think there is a compelling case for this, but I think Reddit has an opportunity to increase the discussion about political advertising and the duty to participate in the political process, ”said Huffman. “And I say all of this knowing that this may just be unacceptable to some of you, and I understand why. And in some areas I can relate to why and in others I can see and hear the pain. There is a chance that this will go well and the risk that it will not go well. I think this is a risk that we accept and we will do our best to face the challenges that we can foresee. “
Back in April, Reddit announced an update to its political advertising policy, according to which campaigns must leave comments on ads open for the first 24 hours. What Reddit is working on right now is a little different. Currently, Reddit allows advertisers to moderate these comments, but Huffman said that probably isn’t the right move in this context.
“You will either moderate too much or too little and that will lead to controversy in both cases,” he said. “And it could be that the advertiser wants this and this controversy is directly at our expense. So this is not a viable solution. “
Another option is for Reddit to moderate comments, but this also carries the risk of controversy. Huffman spoke about how Reddit can then be accused of moderating too much or too little.
“But maybe we can try this other approach so that the other approach isn’t direct comments on the ads,” said Huffman. “Instead, we would have a sticky comment with a link that encourages users to post this ad to a specific community for comment.”
Huffman said the vision is that people could discuss the ad in certain communities on Reddit. These discussions would then be moderated by the respective community. However, this function has yet to be created.
We plan to start running political ads around the end of September with the aim of testing this new feature in early September to see if it works.
“And we stand ready to step back from this deal if we can’t – if we can’t reach this bar, if we can’t do it in time,” said Huffman.
Huffman seemed optimistic that it would achieve this, saying that it would not make a team’s roadmaps “prohibitively disruptive”. However, he recognized that there were other decisions to be made in connection with the election, such as B. which data they allow and which campaigns do not allow advertising.
“I think the most common question I’ve been asked about the ads themselves is, ‘Why are we doing this in the first place? ‘For example, why don’t we just say no? It’s a lot of work. It’s a big distraction, ”he said. “[…] I shared with you the challenge of separating my personal views from mine and our work on Reddit, the platform. But even if you just look at the practical choices we have to make, that’s a very compelling argument. Ultimately, I think Reddit and politics are deeply intertwined. We will play a role in these elections no matter what. And political ads are part of the political process. And if there is a chance Reddit will show a different, healthier, more effective path or expand the political conversation, I think we should take it. That’s what Reddit does. It’s not a safe bet and I think there are a multitude of ways this can go wrong that we are documenting now and we will do our best to fix it. “
TechCrunch has reached out to Reddit and will update this story if we hear anything.