Reddit CEO Says Tech Scandals Proved Him Right on User Data

(Bloomberg) -- Reddit Inc., the news aggregator and discussion forum website, doesn’t always know the full names, genders or other identifying information about its users. That might not be the most lucrative way to build an advertising business, but Chief Executive Officer Steve Huffman feels vindicated.

Larger technology peers, including Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, are facing regulation and government scrutiny over how they use, and profit from, the personal data of billions of people. Reddit, meanwhile, is serving up ads alongside its popular user forums, which are segmented by interest and run the gamut from beauty tips to politics.

Reddit “exists because we didn’t build a business that’s predicated on harvesting and selling your personal data,” Huffman said at Bloomberg’s Sooner Than You Think conference in New York.

The only downside? Reddit still has “a long way to go” before it can withstand the pressures of public markets, Huffman said.

Huffman has hinted previously that an IPO could be in Reddit’s future. But now, “we look at our peers and we look at what’s going on with the market -- I want to make sure if we do something like that, that we can continue to maintain the courage of our convictions,” said Huffman, who is better known as “spez” on the website he co-founded in 2005 with Alexis Ohanian.

An initial public offering is “probably 35 years out,” he joked.

Reddit isn’t immune to some of the other pressures its tech peers face. The popular site has also had to deal with anonymous hateful posts, bullying and conspiracy theories, which have recently become more politically heated. There is no easy solution or policy to address it, though Reddit is trying, Huffman said.

“The worst part of my job is a symptom of the level of discourse in the United States right now,” he said. “Always having my words interpreted in the most cynical possible way can be frustrating.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.