Has Reddit editing users’ comments undermined the whole service?

24 Nov 2016

Reddit. Image: Maxx Satori/Shutterstock

Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman has admitted to altering comments left by users in a Donald Trump thread, potentially undermining the company’s entire service.

In response to a deluge of insults thrown at him on the r/The_Donald thread, Huffman may have thrown a spanner in the company’s works.

After numerous accounts left messages such as “f*ck u/spez” – u/spez being Huffman’s account – thus alerting him on each occasion, he changed some messages so they alerted pro-Trump accounts instead.

This could prove quite damaging for Reddit after quite a week of activity for the company.


Following the fake news controversy that has emerged in the wake of Trump winning the US presidential election, Reddit’s role has emerged as central.

One of the numerous fake news stories that circulated throughout the presidential election campaigns saw a pizza restaurant called Comet Ping Pong brought into a particularly unsavoury situation.

As The New York Times detailed in a lengthy report on the story, Comet Ping Pong is not the centre of a child-abuse ring run by Hillary Clinton. However, the fake news was salacious enough to catch on and, after Reddit found its r/Pizzagate thread getting out of hand, it banned it.

“This subreddit was banned due to a violation of our content policy,” reads the warning hosted in its stead. “Specifically, the proliferation of personal and confidential information. We don’t want witch-hunts on our site.”

This greatly displeased certain Reddit users, culminating in the torrent of abuse sent Hoffman’s way.

However Hoffman, in his move to ‘troll the trolls’, seems to have erred.

“Yep. I messed with the ‘f*ck u/spez’ comments, replacing ‘spez’ with r/the_donald mods for about an hour,” he wrote, claiming ‘Pizzagate’ had taken its toll on him.

“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.”

The complaints made by Reddit users are obvious. One user notes how uncomfortable potential posters may be now, knowing their comments could be edited without their knowledge to add in pretty much anything, such as insults to other users.

“I think it’s really important to document this precedent, and also how shoddily it was handled after he was caught by users,” read one complaint.

“It would surprise most people to hear that the admins would edit a post willy-nilly because their adolescent feelings got pricked.”

Reddit’s community is massive, with views on pretty much anything shared throughout its thousands of threads.

Keeping such a large community happy is proving pretty difficult for the company at the moment.

Reddit. Image: Maxx Satori/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic