(Adds Reddit CEO comments, background on issue of online abuse)
Nov 30 Social media website Reddit Inc, known
for its commitment to free speech, will crack down on online
harassment by banning or suspending users who target others,
starting with those who have directed abuse at Chief Executive
Huffman said in an interview with Reuters that Reddit's
content policy prohibits harassment, but that it had not been
"Personal message harassment is the most cut and dry," he
said. "Right now we are in an interesting position where my
inbox is full of them, it's easy to start with me."
As well as combing through Huffman's inbox, Reddit will
monitor user reports, add greater filtering capacity, and take a
more proactive role in policing its platform rather than relying
on community moderators.
Reddit said it had identified hundreds of the "most toxic
users" and will warn, ban or suspend them. It also plans to
increase staff on its "trust and safety" team.
Reddit's moves are the latest step by social media companies
to adjust their policies in the wake of a polarizing U.S.
election earlier this month in which their websites played a key
Facebook said it is reviewing its approach to so-called
'fake news' - generally sensational but fictitious reports
designed to attract as many readers as possible - and banning
some sites which host fake news from its advertising network.
Twitter is also rolling out new tools to combat abuse.
On Reddit, a channel supporting the U.S. Republican party's
presidential candidate Donald Trump, called r/The_Donald,
featured racist and misogynistic comments, fake news and
conspiracy theories about his Democratic challenger Hillary
Clinton, along with more mainstream expressions of support for
Many of those supporting Trump were very active, voting up
the r/The_Donald conversations so that they became prominent
across Reddit, which is the 7th-most-visited U.S. internet site,
according to web data firm Alexa.
Last week, Reddit banned Pizzagate, a community devoted to a
conspiracy theory, with no evidence to back it up, that links
Clinton to a pedophile ring at a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor,
after it posted personal information in violation of Reddit
Huffman then used his administrative privileges to redirect
abuse he was receiving on a thread on r/The_Donald to the
community's moderators - making it look as if it was intended
for them. Huffman said it was a prank, and that many Reddit
users, including some Trump supporters, told him they thought it
was funny, but it inflamed the situation.
Reddit has a more permissive attitude than Facebook and
Twitter when it comes to what it allows on its site, but
r/The_Donald users frequently crossed a line, Huffman said,
including by trying to manipulate voting to ensure their posts
appear on prominent Reddit pages.
Reddit has stepped up its efforts to combat abuse on the
site over the past year, creating what it called an 'anti-evil"
team of engineers dedicated to fighting harassment.
"The fact I was saying that combating harassment was
important and then letting that openly happen to me, the CEO,
there's a disconnect there," Huffman said.
In the past, Reddit has worked with moderators of
communities to try to enforce its rules.
With r/The_Donald in particular, "we haven't found that to
be particularly effective. We might see flashes of success, but
things kind of revert," Huffman said.
Under its new strategy, Reddit will take a more active role
in dealing with troublemakers, who Huffman said were an
"infinitesimal" portion of Reddit's 250 million monthly
He stressed that the move was not political.
"We don't want to be censoring political beliefs, but then
they do misbehave," he said. "That's why we have worked so
closely with the r/The_Donald community. We tell them: don't
force us to ban you."
The first wave of bans will likely be skewed to the
r/The_Donald community because "that is a catalyst for a lot of
this right now. That community is stirred up," Huffman said.
In a draft of a blog post to be published on Wednesday,
Huffman said he had been asked by many Reddit users "to ban
r/The_Donald outright, but he had rejected that idea, because
"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."
(Reporting By Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jonathan Weber and