Reddit, the self-described “front page of the internet,” may have a key tool in its arsenal as Americans begin to question their relationship with social media: anonymity. According to Steve Huffman, the site’s co-founder and CEO, “privacy is built into Reddit.”
All that’s required to create an account and post on any of Reddit’s 1.2 million forums is a username, and a password. You don’t need to tell the company your birthday, your gender, your real name, or even your email address.* As Huffman put it on Thursday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, “Reddit doesn’t want the burden of personal information ... and is not selling personal information.”
Huffman argued that anonymity on Reddit actually makes using the site “more like a conversation one has in real life” than other exchanges on the internet. “When people detach from their real-world identities, they can be more authentic, more true to themselves,” he claimed.
Huffman gave as an example a subreddit called StillTrying, a forum for couples who have had trouble conceiving children. He posited that such a community wouldn’t exist on other platforms. At least one such group does, in fact, exist on Facebook—or at least did in 2015—but, unlike StillTrying, it was visible only to members. Everything on Reddit is visible to anyone with an internet connection, so it’s conceivable that Reddit could be a resource to a greater number of people than groups on other sites.