Reddit CEO Announces Crackdown On Toxic Behaviour

Image: Gizmodo

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".

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."


    I'm tired of seeing edgelord bullshit everytime I visit r/all. Hell, I'm just tired of seeing edgelord bullshit in general.

    But what did we expect, SJW's on the left went fucking crazy with social media for the last few years, now we have fucktard's on the right doing the same :\.

    .... And here I am, stuck in the middle

      It was a pretty stupid move to use an real subreddit as an example. That's basically taunting that community to respond.

      It's enough to drive anyone insane, as evidenced by their constant misdirection and emotionally driven conflation

    Its amazing short peoples memorys are. After the mod chat leaks and the reddit ceo admitted changing a user post for a laugh everyone on reddit was saying he should be fired and how they will be leaving the site. Now that the ceo has finally made a post everyone is on his side again. Crazy

      The Internet, bringing us together so we can tear ourselves apart. XD

      Well, actually he admitted it himself long before the leaks. The mod chat leaks weren't about him editing the post, but that other mods wanted him to just ban the_donald. And not everyone wanted him gone, it was just the_donald circlejerking hard enough that they thought everyone wanted him gone. In truth, most people didn't give a shit and thought the_donald deserved it

    All this glorious saltiness. Isn't it funny how a primarily leftist site attempts to shut down and censor one of the few right wing subs when they can't handle the returned heat? Reddit has been toxic to conservatives and libertarians for a long time, but you won't hear about it here...

      And you are part of the problem. Reddit hasn't been toxic at all for either group, but your (and SJW's) perceived persecution complex is.

        Ever tried posting a pro-right article in /pol? Good luck with that...

          I'm curious. What would be a few examples of a pro-right subject?

          I don't think Reddit is left-wing. Reddit is a platform. Its users might be more likely to be left-wing due to higher uptake of social media and IT trends amongst groups that are traditionally left wing.

          Last edited 01/12/16 12:58 pm

            Pro-right probably isn't the correct term, as it's pretty much anything that doesn't fit the narrative of the week from those brigading /pol.

            Reddit isn't an open platform anymore. The moderators actively suppress opinions and ideas they don't like. This has been going on for some time, yet the media only catches on when the "other side" starts participating in similar practices. It's all fine until someone you don't like starts doing it too. Would anyone like fries with your hypocrisy?

              That's right. It's been tough for white middle class conservative males in recent times, what with the blacks running everything, women having all the top jobs, the media completely pandering to minority views, the overwhelming objectification of men and the fact that the third world is in charge of the global economy.

              There's a special kind of insanity for the kind of persecution complex you whackjobs suffer from. You live possibly the most privileged life of any human being in history yet are convinced that you're put upon and the people who you have all the advantages over are secretly screwing you over behind your back as part of some global conspiracy.

        I am a Libertarian, so I speak from experience when I say, he is completely and utterly right. Its not a 'perceived persecution complex' on our part, its a deliberate blindness to the shitty things the left does on yours. SJW's are viciously attack and dox people on a regular basis.

        Last edited 01/12/16 2:46 pm

          So the fact that edgelords are regularly hitting r/all? In this case, I would say edgelords are doing much more damage than SJW's on Reddit. Not that I think either of those groups are worth my fucking time.

      Hahaha, how classical. A whole community spouts hatred, cruel trolling and bigotism by the truckload and someone dares pointing out this is not ok and they immediately go "censorship!" "white-bashing!" "reverse-racism!" Who are the ones that can dish it but not take it?

      Also, if you read the previous article, you'd see that that subreddit has, puzzlingly, been left alone for way way longer than their behaviour merits, until it festered to an almost out-of-control point. This is not a sudden and immediate knee-jerk reaction.

      However, I'll agree with you that Reddit and other modern media websites are toxic to racists, sexist and bigoted people. Call me biased, but I fail to see a problem with that.

        Clearly you have never visited the subreddits in question.

        I have to admit, I loved visiting /r/The_Donald because it was an insight into batshit conspiratorial insanity and shit posts.

        That said, it was tiring to see it on the front page constantly. It's one of those sub-reddits you visit, not because any of it is agreeable (although obviously it is to some) but because it is an insight into what some people truly believe.

        Some of it is funny if you don't take any of it too seriously. (At first I actually thought it was a parody sub...)

        It's a hugely subscribed sub-reddit. I don't think it should be completely removed from being on the frontpage purely because of it's size and popularity, but it should not be exempt to the same rules that apply to every other subreddit. So where they break the rules they should be enforced. I think that's the key issue here.

        T_D was getting away with behaviour no other subreddit would.

          Don't get me started on the conspiracy stuff that went on in The_Donald during the election. That was some batshit crazy stuff, and yes, there are some legitimately crazy people in there. I don't know how anyone can take Alex Jones seriously.

          The shitposting was glorious though.

        It's not jst that. Its the blatent hypocrisy of /r/The_Donald whining about censorship and "safe places" when they're the home of the most ban happy mods since /r/pyonyang. In fact they're sidebar states "no dissension". If that's not censorship, what is?

        Let them whine and carry on like a bunch of 13 year olds IN THEIR OWN SAFE PLACE, but FFS ... at least I don't need to see them on /r/all anymore.

    I have a feeling I will be checking in on r/subredditdrama more often.

    As much as I get sick of seeing constant The_Donald threads on /all, I feel like this move allowing filtering of subreddits off of /all (especially when the example given is for a half of the political spectrum) is just going to cause the respective echo chambers to grow bigger.

    It's not really that surprising, given that we've known for decades that a community cannot defend itself against people using the platform in supported ways that go completely against community norms, ever since Communitree back in the 70s was overrun by school kids. It's no surprise that the platforms that championed not having any of these kinds of barriers, mistakenly calling it 'free speech', inevitably found themselves unable to deal with people completely happy to be awful.

    A community has norms. A community needs to have the tools to enforce those norms, or agree to shift them. That's why free speech is valuable, so that the community has that conversation and not the people with the weapons, but to stay a community that conversation has to be settled and agreed on. Reddit wanted it both ways, to have lots of tiny little communities that R/ all one big community, and they're finding out how fragile an idea that is.

    (It doesn't help who they're picking a fight with. You can't get the benefit of the doubt from someone convinced to see you as less than human because you're the Enemy. I'd almost call it brainwashing, except there's certain specific circumstances you have to create for brainwashing to work - you need an echo chamber where external sources of info can't be trusted, and a cause that's nebulous enough that it takes a while to notice that most of the group's actions don't advance the cause, you need tools of control to keep people upset and angry and guilty, a willingness to disregard personal experience in favour of agreed-upon dogma, and a willingness to disregard the humanity of people who don't agree. Frankly I don't go to Reddit often enough to see any of that so I can't judge one way or the other.)

      I actually agree almost entirely with this. I was thinking about this. I think possibly it started from a good place. The alleged Voltaire quote, "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it."

      I think it's been corrupted, to the point where certain subcultures think having bigots in their community is a crowning achievement of western culture, because it demonstrates just how very free they are. This then translates so that attack on bigots is an attack on their principles.

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