Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman is finding himself in a little bit of hot water after he revealed that he modified comments aimed at him that were posted in the “fuck u/spez” subreddit. He acknowleged that it was a mistake and claimed that whatever changes he had made were now fixed. “Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again,” he wrote in an apology post.
However, there were other users who decided to troll the company CEO and incite a rumor alleging he was a pedophile. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, which prompted Huffman to take action. “Yep. I messed with the ‘fuck u/spez‘ comments, replacing ‘spez’ with r/the_donald mods for about an hour,” he said. “It’s been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff. As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a pedophile constantly.”
Naturally the revelations of Huffman’s mea culpa has done little to bring peace to the land of Reddit, with users replying to his apology claiming that it has cost the service the trust of its users. One account holder boasted that “You have literally, in that petty act, destroyed the credibility of Reddit. Any article that quotes a user post, uncredible [sic]. For all people know here, we are all now in danger of the admins throwing child porn into one of our histories, and endangering us.”
Another user echoed the sentiments, saying “This is not a the_donald thing anymore. This should infuriate and concern EVERY SINGLE USER FROM EVERY SINGLE SUB. Falsifying content. CEO ethics violations.”
On one hand, it’s possible to empathize with Huffman’s actions because everyone has their breaking point. However, the reputation of Reddit is also at stake simply because he’s the CEO. The company’s community team has every right to be angry at him as it definitely will impact how users view moderators and administrators for some time and whether there’s really free speech on the site versus censorship. However, terrible events can also drive good people to do bad things, which can distract from the original crimes.
Oddly, Huffman’s choices today run contrary to his thinking. In an interview with Inc., the cofounder of Reddit stated: “We’ve created this whole new and very efficient way of communicating and sharing ideas. It’s not just controlled by a couple gatekeepers.” It seems that all evidence to the contrary, at least for now.
Reddit may be the place where people can exchange ideas, but it’s not innocent either. The message board-like service has been a gathering place for all sorts of discussions, including some that are just not in the spirit of conversation. Huffman declared in 2015 that “the concept of free speech is important to [Reddit], but completely unfettered free speech can cause harm to others and additionally silence others, which is what we’ll continue to address.” Hopefully this experience shows him that there’s much more to work on.
We’ve reached out to Reddit to see if it has any additional comment.