In a lengthy post in the official hub for site announcements, the CEO of Reddit, Steve Huffman, has apologised for comprising users’ trust in the site by “attempting to troll the trolls” and added that the site will be “taking a more aggressive stance against toxic users and poorly behaving communities”. If you’re a Reddit user, here’s what you need to know.
The apology and proclamation comes not long after Bryan Menegus’ lengthy report into the fractious relationship between Reddit’s moderation team, management and the r/The_Donald sub-reddit.
The_Donald has regularly flouted Reddit’s content policy, regularly encouraging vote brigading, with threads like “wouldn’t it be a shame if r/all saw this” or “r/all needs to see this” a common spin on the tactic, for instance.
But over the course of 854 words early this morning, Huffman explained that the site has begun taking action against “hundreds of the most toxic users”. He also apologised for cracking last week, whereby the CEO edited users’ posts in retaliation to “getting called a paedophile constantly”.
“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. 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 wrote.
He added that he spent his “formative years as a young troll on the Internet” and while some appreciated his attempt to fight fire with fire, it’s now understood that “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”.
Importantly, Huffman says The_Donald won’t be banned. “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.”
But while the hub for Donald Trump supporters will remain, some of its more offending users will not, and posts stickied from the sub-reddit will no longer appear in r/all, as Huffman explained:
Historically, we have relied on our relationship with moderators to curb bad behaviours. 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 behaviour that is detrimental to Reddit:
- We have identified hundreds of the most toxic users and are taking action against them, ranging from warnings to timeouts to permanent bans. Posts stickied on r/the_donald will no longer appear in r/all. r/all is not our frontpage, but is a popular listing that our most engaged users frequent, including myself. The sticky feature was designed for moderators to make announcements or highlight specific posts. It was not meant to circumvent organic voting, which r/the_donald does to slingshot posts into r/all, often in a manner that is antagonistic to the rest of the community.
- We will continue taking on the most troublesome users, and going forward, if we do not see the situation improve, we will continue to take privileges from communities whose users continually cross the line—up to an outright ban.
All users will also be to filter sub-reddits from r/all/ as of today, with this video showcasing a very obvious removal of a r/The_Donald/ post as an example.
Huffman’s post won’t negate criticisms of integrity levelled at him, and Reddit, in this past week. For years, and to this day, Reddit markets itself as a open forum for conversation. If users’ posts could be stealthily edited without the user knowing, what other details or comments might have been left without someone’s knowledge or consent over the years?
According to the CEO, the power to edit comments and posts lies with engineers who have access to production data. That access is being tightened thanks to the scandal. It also wasn’t the first time when Huffman had stealth-edited posts: back in 2009, he “replaced the word ‘fag’ with ‘fog'”, and on request he has fixed typos in thread titles.
But the most contentious changes are Huffman’s announcement to crackdown on toxic behaviour, particularly what emanates from The_Donald. And so far, those words have been received akin to a declaration of war. Several of the top threads on The_Donald have criticised Huffman for singling out the sub-reddit, the change to the r/all algorithm to prevent The_Donald stickied posts from propagating more widely, and appearing to punish The_Donald in the wake of his own mistakes.
“We will stay here and shitpost our hearts out because we have every single right that every leftist crybully has,” the top stickied post in The_Donald reads. “Centipedes as a culture don’t harass anyone – we don’t have to. Alphas don’t need to put someone else down – and every one of you glorious shitposters is an ALPHA, make no mistake.”