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Reddit’s co-founder knows his trolls, says he has advice on moderating the noise

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is no stranger to the content moderation debate roiling social media. The popular discussion platform, which calls itself the front page of the internet, has long struggled with trolls, misinformation, and extremism.

Ohanian believes that every platform ought to craft clear content moderation strategies and have a team of employees dedicated to enforcing them.

“It’s going to be imperative that every one of these social platforms understands what their role is and what their policies are so that they’re not subject to the whims of whatever frenzy swirls around at a given moment,” he said talking to a media representative on Monday.

Ohanian and Steve Huffman founded Reddit in 2005. The platform now has more than 330 million monthly users, and some 138,000 communities dedicated to almost every possible subject.

While Ohanian is no longer involved with Reddit’s day-to-day operations, he remains on its board.

Last year, he married tennis superstar Serena Williams and started a family. He’s also partnered with 1850, a new brand of coffee from Folgers, in launching a contest in which aspiring entrepreneurs pitch ideas and compete for mentorship and prizes.

Ohanian said many of these platforms have never had to deal with this level of scrutiny. He says they may be tempted to react to issues as they arise, rather than institute a proactive policy. But it would be better, he said, to have clear policies and enforce them.

“We’re now entering an age where social media platforms have the kind of influence that traditional media did or do,” Ohanian said. “As a society, we’re all still wrestling with what that’s going to mean for their level of moderation.”

As a father, Ohanian says he’d like to see his daughter embrace social media when she’s old enough. She’s already got quite a presence on Instagram, where an account run by her parents has racked up an impressive 434,000 followers.

He hopes to teach her media literacy and encourage her to think critically about everything she sees online. He’s particularly concerned about an emerging form of disinformation called deepfakes — doctored videos that will eventually fool even the most expert viewers.

“The genie is out of the bottle,” he said. “There’s going to be a new requirement for all of us to be looking more critically. [Everyone] should look skeptically at everything they consume [and] think for themselves when they’re processing all the information.”



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