Reddit CEO Steve Huffman apologized Wednesday for secretly editing comments in a community thread for supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, and vowed to take a tougher stance on some of the site's "toxic users."
Last week, Huffman — who goes by the handle "spez" on Reddit — admitted to altering comments on a popular community of Trump supporters (a misguided attempt to "troll the trolls," he said), replacing the use of his handle in negative comments with those of the subreddit's community moderators, so they were hit by the firehose of anger aimed at him.
His actions were heavily criticized by users as violating a tacit code between the platform and the users.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Huffman had explained his actions by citing a "long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff," a reference to Reddit's decision to shut down a thread devoted to proving a false news item accusing a Washington D.C. pizzeria of hosting a child-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton. The pizzeria's owner had reported a surge in online attacks, including death threats, as that false news spread and told the New York Times he was asking Reddit and others to remove the articles.
"As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a pedophile constantly," Huffman wrote last week.
On Wednesday, Huffman apologized for the editorial intervention while detailing a broader crackdown if users violate the company's policies.
"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 Wednesday, saying the altered comments were restored within an hour. "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 said Reddit will take a "proactive approach" to curbing bad behavior on the site, including taking action against its most toxic users, ranging from warnings to permanent bans. If the situation does not improve, Huffman says Reddit will consider banning a community.
The apology follows a report from Gizmodo detailing how Reddit has allowed the Trump subreddit to "overrun" the site by failing to enforce its content policies.
"Historically, we have relied on our relationship with moderators to curb bad behaviors," says Huffman. "While some of the moderators have been helpful, this has not been wholly effective, and we are now taking a more proactive approach to policing behavior that is detrimental to Reddit."
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.
Copyright 2016 KPNX