Reddit users are calling on the company's CEO to resign after he edited user posts, redirecting angry words meant for him to prominent President-elect Donald Trump supporters on the site.
The drama began when Reddit shut down a forum dedicated to "Pizzagate," a conspiracy theory accusing former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta of running a child sex abuse ring out of a pizzeria in Washington, D.C. The conspiracy began when a fake news story named the pizzeria as a front for Podesta's alleged activities.
Steve Huffman, Reddit's CEO, said he and his staff deleted the conspiracy theory forum because users had been sharing confidential information.
James Alefantis, the innocent pizza parlor owner, received harassing phone calls and threats after his pizzeria was named by conspiracy theorists, The Washington Times reported. The abuse was so bad that Alefantis called the FBI for help.
That's when Reddit stepped in, shutting down the forum where peddlers of the "Pizzagate" conspiracy met and percolated their wild story.
“We don’t want witchhunts on our site,” Reddit's team posted, explaining why the "Pizzagate" forum was shut down.
But the move prompted backlash against Huffman himself, who uses the handle "spez" on Reddit.
Huffman wasn't happy with the criticism, so he edited user posts -- without their knowledge -- so it appeared they were criticizing moderators of the site's largest pro-Trump forum. When those users logged in again, they found their posts directed at Huffman were now directed at the pro-Trump moderators, with no explanation for how and why that happened.
Eventually, Huffman admitted what he did, saying he was frustrated after "a long week" of dealing with the "Pizzagate" controversy, the Daily Mail reported.
"Yep. I messed with the 'f--- u/spez' comments, replacing 'spez' with r/the_donald mods for about an hour," Huffman admitted.
He said he tries to "maintain a good relationship" with the site's users, but claims he reached his breaking point with the negative feedback.
"As CEO, I shouldn't play such games, and it's all fixed now," Huffman wrote. "Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won't do this again."
For Reddit, it's the second time one of the company's CEOs ran afoul of the site's users over free speech issues. In 2015, then-CEO Ellen Pao shut down five subreddits with a combined 150,000 users, and angered users by firing a popular employee who was in charge of the site's "Ask Me Anything" features. Pao resigned and was replaced by Huffman, who is one of the site's co-founders.