Reddit CEO Does Not Like Reddit Harassment Now That He Is A Target

Steven Huffman says it's time for Reddit to ban toxic users, starting with members of "The_Donald" subreddit

Illustration: Diana Quach
Nov 30, 2016 at 4:39 PM ET

A few days after admitting to secretly editing posts in a popular subreddit devoted to Donald Trump — and enduring the barrage of criticism that followed — Reddit CEO Steven Huffman is going to start booting toxic Redditors. And he’s going to start with the ones who’ve been harassing him.

In an interview with Reuters, Huffman said that his mailbox has been flooded with abusive messages after the massive social news site closed a subreddit dedicated to a conspiracy theory that a pizza restaurant was tied to a pedophile ring run by prominent associates of Hillary Clinton. Reddit has anti-abuse policies but has been fairly lax in enforcing them, coming down on the side of free speech — even if that speech was mean. But, now that Huffman is the target of such harassment, he has decided it’s time for stricter enforcement. (So, if you sent him an abusive personal message recently, you may lose your account privileges.)

“Personal message harassment is the most cut and dry,” Huffman told Reuters. “Right now we are in an interesting position where my inbox is full of them, it’s easy to start with me.”

In addition to this, Huffman wrote on Reddit, members of The_Donald subreddit are in for extra scrutiny as Reddit seeks to get rid of some of its more toxic users. Huffman said that The_Donald’s moderators have not been responsive enough to Reddit’s calls to keep the subreddit in line. Instead of getting rid of The_Donald —which has become a hub for some of Trump’s more objectionable supporters as well as a place to mobilize efforts to troll Amazon reviews and support far right politicians in Europe — entirely, Huffman said, Reddit will ban or suspend users it believes to be the worst offenders and place special restrictions on the subreddit as a whole. One of them is to prevent pinned posts on The_Donald from appearing on the r/all subreddit, where the most popular posts on the entire site are featured.

The_Donald’s moderators have been using pinned, or “stickied,” posts as a way to designate posts for mass upvotes that would then put those posts on what is essentially Reddit’s front page, thereby getting the subreddit (and the post) that many more eyeballs and attention. This, Huffman said, was not an “organic” way of determining the most popular posts across the site, so now The_Donald doesn’t get to do it at all.

Huffman said the crackdown was not because of The_Donald’s politics, but because some of its users happened to be the most abusive on the platform and moderators weren’t otherwise able to control their behavior. In essence, they bit the hand that fed them too hard. And spammed its inbox with mean messages.

Members of The_Donald responded to the announcement by calling Huffman a “cuck,” accusing him of censorship, and threatening to tell on him to Reddit’s investors.