Reddit, a popular news-aggregation website, made the New York Times on Friday. Condé Nast, owner of Reddit, refused to run advertisements promoting California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana. The decision is in stark contrast with the Reddit user base, which largely supports marijuana legalization. (The Marijuana subreddit, which is just one of many pot-related sections of the site, has over 27,000 readers).
Reddit fought back against Condé Nast’s decision by creating and voting up posts related to Proposition 19. At one point, a majority of the top posts on Reddit were images promoting Proposition 19, and the top post was titled “YES to Prop 19; NO to corporate censorship.”
According to Condé Nast, the company “does not want to benefit financially from this particular issue.”
So what’s this have to do with gay rights? Ads that were much more controversial and insulting than those related to California’s Proposition 19 remained on the site, even during this heated debate. On the website’s LGBT subreddit, ads were running with anti-gay sentiments including “Do You Think Homosexuals Should Have Special Rights?” and “Do You Support Obama’s Homosexual Agenda?”
Why was Condé Nast benefiting financially from anti-gay ads, but not from pro-marijuana ads? When Reddit administrators were alerted to the anti-gay ads, Reddit disabled Adsense in the LGBT subreddit and apologized for the ads. Now, the anti-gay ads have disappeared. But was it right for Reddit to remove the anti-gay ads? Is a company responsible for only putting up advertisements that the company agrees with? Should the advertisements on a website reflect the feelings of the membership, or the feelings of the website’s owner? And what about the pro-marijuana ads?
Certainly, it seems like it isn’t right for anti-gay ads to remain on the LGBT-friendly website while ads in support of marijuana legalization are removed, despite the website’s pro-marijuana leaning. But what if the situation were reversed? Even if the advertisements reflect the opinions of the website’s users, should a company censor its advertisements in the first place?
While censoring advertisements can look like it infringes on freedom of speech, freedom of speech is not the same as ability to use a website for advertising. Freedom of speech does not allow companies to have the platform to put their advertisements wherever they want them. In that sense, there’s nothing wrong with Reddit censoring their ads, and only allowing advertisers they agree with to use the website.
Anti-gay advertisements just don’t belong on a gay website. Whether or not Condé Nast was in the right for banning Proposition 19 ads from Reddit, they certainly made a good decision to remove the anti-gay advertisements from the Public Advocate of the U.S.
Photo credit: Reddit