Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has issued a warning to a popular Trump subreddit that targeted him with abuse: “Don’t force us to ban you.”
Huffman made the statement in an interview with Reuters, during which he also promised his site is taking action against users that had harassed him and others.
Starting with the users that targeted the CEO with personalized attacks in posts and comments, Reddit will warn, ban, or suspend hundreds of its “most toxic” members. Whereas in the past it has relied on community moderators to police subreddits, it will now take a more active role in regulating its platform, claims Huffman.
“Personal message harassment is the most cut and dry. Right now we are in an interesting position where my inbox is full of them, it’s easy to start with me,” said Huffman.
The Reddit chief also pledged to increase staff on the site’s “trust and safety” team.
As Reddit is likely aware, monitoring one of the most popular sites on the internet will be far from easy. With over 250 million monthly visitors, Reddit will have a hard time stamping out its troublemakers, who can (after all) simply set up new accounts following a suspension.
The site’s abuse problem is exacerbated by the fact that Reddit has always kept its distance when it comes to moderation. The platform is known for its commitment to free speech, making it a haven for users who find stricter social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to be too restrictive.
Reddit’s current enfant terrible is a popular Trump forum, known as “r/The_Donald.” Huffman ran afoul of that particular subreddit after banning another forum, dubbed “r/Pizzagate” — itself dedicated to spreading a disreputable theory regarding Hillary Clinton and a local Washington D.C. restaurant.
After r/Pizzagate was shut down for indulging in what Reddit described as a “witch hunt,” its users migrated to “r/The_Donald,” where they began a campaign of abuse that saw them spam Huffman with obscene messages. The Reddit CEO reacted by secretly modifying the messages, a covert move that was soon uncovered by the subreddit’s moderators. Huffman quickly apologized, but that wasn’t enough. His actions resulted in a feeling of distrust among some of Reddit’s most impassioned members, who began calling into question the credibility of the site, and asking for Huffman to resign.
However, it seems the CEO isn’t backing down. Those aware of the site’s problematic relationship with its so-called “toxic” minority will recall that Huffman’s predecessor Ellen Pao took a similar stance against harassment, although her actions never extended to secretly modifying users’ messages. Pao oversaw the removal of several subreddits known for their abusive behavior. The move resulted in a huge backlash that saw hundreds of thousands of Reddit users campaign for Pao’s resignation, which eventually came in July of last year.
The question remains: will Huffman be able to implement his directives without suffering the same fate?