Reddit to Combat Fake News by Banning 'Toxic' Users

By Features PCmag

Reddit will ban hundreds of users for making inappropriate comments, its CEO Steve Huffman announced today, less than a week after he admitted to secretly modifying the comments of posters on the site's forums dedicated to Donald Trump.

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"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 in a Wednesday post on Reddit, which bills itself as the "front page" of the Internet.

In addition to the bans, posts on the Reddit pages devoted to Trump—called subreddits—will no longer show up on Reddit's r/all page, a collection of the site's most popular posts. Many sticky posts on the Trump subreddit were showing up on the r/all page because posters were circumventing organic voting in order to "slingshot" posts into r/all, Huffman claimed.

The 33-year-old Reddit co-founder returned to the company as its CEO in 2015 after a hiatus during which he helped start the travel booking site Hipmunk, among other projects. He upset many Reddit users last week when he secretly edited posts criticizing him for banning a subreddit discussion of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which accuses Hillary Clinton of being involved in a secret pedophile ring and is popular among pro-Trump Internet commenters.

In a Reddit post on Nov. 24, Huffman admitted that he had edited many comments directed at his username, "spez," to appear as if they had been directed at moderators of the Trump subreddit.

"While many users across the site found what I did funny, or appreciated that I was standing up to the bullies (I received plenty of support from users of r/the_donald), many others did not," Huffman wrote in Wednesday's post. "I understand what I did has greater implications than my relationship with one community, and it is fair to raise the question of whether this erodes trust in Reddit."

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Huffman's actions and apology, as well as Reddit's decision to ban troublesome users, comes as the role that fake news stories play in online discussion of politics has kicked off a national debate. President Obama last week singled out fake news stories appearing on social media sites as a serious problem facing American democracy.

This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.