SACRAMENTO (CBS Sacramento) – “The Front Page of the Internet” is clamping down on commenters.

After complaints about some of its usersubs, Reddit is shutting down some of its communities, or “subreddits,” that have been accused of being forums for sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive material.

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Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced the site’s new harassment policy in the form of an AMA (Ask Me Anything). Users, called Redditors, will be given time to offer input before the new policies are finalized.

“Reddit is a place to have open and authentic discussions,” wrote Huffman. “The reason we’re careful to restrict speech is because people have more open and authentic discussions when they aren’t worried about the speech police knocking down their door. When our purpose comes into conflict with a policy, we make sure our purpose wins.”

But Huffman created controversy when he noted that a subreddit called “coontown,” a community that caters to racists with a bias against African Americans, will not be banned, but reclassified, despite other subreddits being removed. One of the “rules” of the subreddit states: “Stay on topic: N*****s.”

While prohibited content under the new rules included:

“Anything that incites harm or violence against an individual or group of people (it’s ok to say “I don’t like this group of people.” It’s not ok to say, “I’m going to kill this group of people.”)

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“Anything that harasses, bullies, or abuses an individual or group of people (these behaviors intimidate others into silence)”

Huffman ultimately decided that “coontown” wasn’t an offender of these rules.

The new CEO tried to explain his reasoning for the decision in his post: “We’ll consider banning subreddits that clearly violate the guidelines in my post–the ones that are illegal or cause harm to others,” Huffman said. “There are many subreddits whose contents I and many others find offensive, but that alone is not justification for banning. /r/rapingwomen will be banned. They are encouraging people to rape. /r/coontown will be reclassified. The content there is offensive to many, but does not violate our current rules for banning.”

The “reclassification” of the subreddit meant that ads will be removed from the community, in addition to some minor requirements for redditors who want to view the content. “This classification will require a login, must be opted into, will not appear in search results or public listings, and will generate no revenue for Reddit,” wrote Huffman.

Former Reddit executive Ellen Pao resigned after she tried to impose similar rule changes. In an editorial published in the Washington Post, she wrote the open nature of the Internet encourages harassment.

“Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet. But that balancing act is getting harder. The trolls are winning.”

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