Online message board website Reddit, the self-appointed “front page of the Internet” has officially hired their first federal lobbyists this week.
The Hill reports that Reddit has officially appointed their first federal lobbyists according to disclosure firms obtained this week. The disclosure form shows that the company hired the Franklin Square Group in July to lobby the government on “Internet issues, including net neutrality and liability protections for online platforms.”
The “liability protections for online platforms,” part of the disclosure may refer to the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) being pushed by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) which could see websites being held liable for any sex trafficking that takes place on their platform. Companies such as Facebook and Google have opposed the bill, pushing back against it due to worries that they may be held liable for actions of their users out of the companies control.
Reddit may also be interested in having representation within the government as it has currently not been decided whether or not Reddit will be included in investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election which social media companies Facebook, Google and Twitter have found themselves embroiled in. It was recently reported that Russian linked sources paid as much as $100,000 for approximately 3,000 political advertisements across Facebook in 2015 and 2016.
Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA) the top Democrat sitting on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has previously voiced his fear that Reddit would be extremely vulnerable to Russian propaganda campaigns but there is yet to be any solid evidence revealed that the site has previously been used for Russian propaganda efforts. The Hill reached out to Reddit for comment on their new lobbyists but has yet to receive a response.
Reddit was pulled into the political spotlight in recent years with the rise of the websites Trump supporting community, The_Donald, which was reportedly censored by the website as their content was appearing too frequently on the front page. At one point, Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman apparently considered banning the The_Donald entirely, “The United States is more divided than ever, and we see that tension within Reddit itself,” said Huffman in a statement, “The community that was formed in support of President-elect Donald Trump organized and grew rapidly, but within it were users that devoted themselves to antagonising the broader Reddit community.”
Huffman further wrote that he resisted pressure to ban The_Donald entirely, “More than anything, I want Reddit to heal, and I want our country to heal, and although many of you have asked us to ban the r/the_donald outright, it is with this spirit of healing that I have resisted doing so. If there is anything about this election that we have learned, it is that there are communities that feel alienated and just want to be heard, and Reddit has always been a place where those voices can be heard.”