Reddit announced on Wednesday a new plan to punish its most abusive trolls, while at the same time apologizing for some trolling that stemmed from the highest ranks of the company.
In a post made on Reddit by CEO Steve Huffman, under his username spez, noted the online community had become a particularly hostile place—a problem that has become more prominent over the last several months during the course of a particularly brutal election season.
“The United States is more divided than ever, and we see that tension within Reddit itself,” Huffman wrote. “The community that was formed in support of President-elect Donald Trump organized and grew rapidly, but within it were users that devoted themselves to antagonising the broader Reddit community.”
The Donald Trump-backing subreddit in question, r/The_Donald, has been the subject of considerable concern among Redditors and especially within the ranks of the site’s volunteer moderators.
A report from Gizmodo earlier this week cited a moderator of a popular subreddit who said, “I know there’s always been a ‘dark side’ to reddit. But the dark side used to be confined to the corners...It was manageable. What The_Donald has become, and what it’s doing to the site isn’t.”
The trolling and harassing behavior that has spilled out of confined spaces and into Reddit as a whole was a particular target of the company’s CEO. “We have identified hundreds of the most toxic users and are taking action against them, ranging from warnings to timeouts to permanent bans,” Huffman wrote.
He also offered users a new way to opt out of seeing some of the more heinous or just unwanted posts in their feed by enabling the ability for users to filter what appears in r/all, the catch-all homepage that shows the most engaged with threads from across all of Reddit’s communities.
The r/all page had become inundated with posts from r/The_Donald, as users would often coordinate to push certain posts to the top of Reddit, making them visible for all users. Users can now filter out any posts from specific subreddits by going to r/all on their desktop web browser and entering the subreddits they would like excluded from their feed.
Huffman also offered up an apology for his own trolling. Last week, the CEO took to r/The_Donald and edited comments of users posting in the subreddit. Though the changes were brief, they were also widely decried as an abuse of power.
“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,” Huffman wrote. “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.”
Response to the post has been mixed across Reddit, with many users thankful for the new feature to filter the homepage but still somewhat wary about the CEO’s actions. The Trump backers on r/The_Donald and members of other controversial subreddits have decried the filtering option as censorship.