The chief executive of popular online discussion website Reddit on Wednesday admitted to using his position in the company to edit comments that were critical of him. Steve Huffman said he anonymously changed references to his username — “spez” — to that of a pro-Donald Trump subreddit — r/the_donald.
After moderators of r/the_donald called the CEO out on his abuse of power, Huffman posted, “I messed with the “f--- u/spez” comments, replacing "spez" with r/the_donald mods for about an hour,” maintaining that he only changed the target.
“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. As the CEO, I shouldn’t play such games, and it’s all fixed now,” Huffman said from his account, admitting that he faced flak from the community for his move. “Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won’t do this again.”
Earlier this week, the New York Times published a report on a Washington DC pizza place — Comet Ping Pong — which had been at the center of a fake news report alleging that it housed a child-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton and campaign manager John Podesta. There was no evidence to back this claim and Reddit clamped down on the “r/ Pizzagate” subreddit that was looking to prove the conspiracy. The page that replaced Pizzagate on Reddit read, “We don’t want witchhunts on our site.”
Reddit’s move was met with a spate of “f--- u/spez” comments, mostly from the pro-Trump subreddit.
Huffman, 33, replaced Reddit’s former CEO Ellen Pao in 2015 after the latter faced severe criticism from its user base for firing Victoria Taylor, an employee in charge of managing a popular Q&A sub-board. Pao was also behind the closing of subreddits like r/fatpeoplehate.
Huffman, who co-founded the company in 2005, was tasked with balancing the site’s censorship, which has been called out by users for trampling upon their freedom.