Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has admitted that he modified comments about him left on the site from supporters of Donald Trump.
Huffman said he changed mentions of him in some of the messages inside the site’s largest forum for the President-elect, but not the messages themselves. But, in doing so, he dredges up past concerns that Reddit remains unable to work with its community.
“Yep. I messed with the “fuck u/spez” comments, replacing “spez” with r/the_donald mods for about an hour,” Huffman, who co-founded Reddit with Alexis Ohanian in 2005, wrote.
The issue surrounds #pizzagate, a fake news story about a Washington-based pizza restaurant said to be the center point of a child trafficking operation run by Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta. The story was fabricated, but it gained attention on social media, so much so that the New York Times wrote about it.
As you’d expect, the rumors made their way to Reddit, only for the company management to close the Pizzagate subreddit because it violated terms and conditions around posting an individual’s private information.
Huffman, who left Reddit to start travel site Hipmunk in 2010 before returning last year to replace Ellen Pao, said he made the changes to messages in response to critical and abusive comments that he received in the wake of closure.
While he went public with an admission, he stopped short of an apology.
“As much as we try to maintain a good relationship with you all, it does get old getting called a pedophile constantly. As the CEO, I shouldn’t play such games, and it’s all fixed now. Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again,” he wrote.
“This was a case of me trolling the trolls for a bit,” he added in a reply to another user.
Pao left Reddit under a cloud last year. Her actions, which included the closure of popular threads and the firing of community manager Victoria Taylor, drew unrest from many users, some of whom stepped over the line by making racist, sexist and other kinds of comments towards her.
The Pao saga is in the past for Reddit, but Huffman’s frank admission will draw concern from many users who, already wary of the management, may feel that covertly tampering with message, in any way, destroys the site’s credibility.