Reddit vows to combat online abuse as CEO apologizes for editing Trump supporters’ comments

Reddit CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman said Wednesday that the tech firm will be taking action against the social media site’s “most toxic users” and apologized for how he handled abusive comments hurled at him.

In a post on Reddit, Huffman wrote that the San Francisco tech firm will issue warnings, timeouts and permanent bans for users that continually violate the site’s rules. Posts from a popular pro-Donald Trump community called “r/the_donald” will also not appear on one of its main hubs called “r/all.”

“I am sorry: I am sorry for compromising the trust you all have in Reddit, and I am sorry to those that I created work and stress for, particularly over the holidays,” wrote Huffman, who goes by the user name spez on the site. “It is heartbreaking to think that my actions distracted people from their family over the holiday; instigated harassment of our moderators; and may have harmed Reddit itself, which I love more than just about anything.”

Huffman came under fire late last week for modifying comments made by users in a pro-Donald Trump discussion thread after they insulted and criticized him for allowing the tech firm to pull down a “Pizzagate” conspiracy board from the site.

Reddit banned a community thread called “r/pizzagate” aimed at proving a false conspiracy theory that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and campaign chairman John Podesta were running a child-trafficking ring out of pizza restaurant Comet Ping Pong.

Users who are part of a pro-Donald Trump discussion thread thought the company’s decision to pull down “r/pizzagate” amounted to censorship and started posting critical and profane comments about Huffman.

The 33-year-old CEO changed some of the profane comments directed at him with the user names of moderators from the Trump thread for about an hour.

Social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have also been trying to do more to crack down on online abuse, but Huffman made an unusual and controversial move by trying to “troll the trolls” himself.

“I honestly thought I might find some common ground with that community by meeting them on their level. It did not go as planned. I restored the original comments after less than an hour, and explained what I did,” he wrote.

An online petition asking that Huffman step down as CEO racked up more than 5,300 signatures.

“While many users across the site found what I did funny, or appreciated that I was standing up to the bullies (I received plenty of support from users of r/the_donald), many others did not,” he wrote. “I understand what I did has greater implications than my relationship with one community, and it is fair to raise the question of whether this erodes trust in Reddit.”

The company is “updating our internal controls,” Huffman wrote, to prevent the CEO from modifying user comments in the future.

Photo Credit: Reddit Logo


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