The chief executive of Reddit is facing calls to resign from angry members of the website's userbase after he admitted to editing comments that were personally critical of him. A change.org petition has been created and has gained thousands of signatures in 24 hours.
This digital call-to-arms was created by a person using the name Bill Johnson, whose only prior post is a similar petition that eventually forced the resignation of former Reddit boss Ellen Pao – who left the company last year amid backlash for sacking a fellow staffer.
The petition, created on 24 November, states that CEO Steve Huffman, 33, breached the "security and trust" of the Reddit community. It said: "With past and recent controversies revolving around Huffman (/u/spez), it is clear that he is no longer fit to lead Reddit."
As previously reported, Huffman, who co-founded the website back in 2005, admitted to using his access to fend off abuse he was receiving from members of a politically-charged group on the website called r/the_donald – a pro-Donald Trump collective that thrives on rumour and conspiracy.
"I messed with the 'f**k u/spez' comments, replacing 'spez' with r/the_donald mods for about an hour," Huffman said. "It's been a long week here trying to unwind the r/pizzagate stuff," he said, referencing an unfounded conspiracy that linked Hillary Clinton to a child abuse ring.
He added: "As the CEO, I shouldn't play such games, and it's all fixed now. Our community team is pretty p****d at me, so I most assuredly won't do this again."
Johnson's petition countered: "Huffman admitted to breaking his bearing by childishly editing comments and hurling insults back at his own community, specifically members in /r/The_Donald [...] we are calling for Steve Huffman to resign as Reddit CEO.
"Just over a year ago, over 200,000 people came together calling for Ellen Pao's resignation due to censorship and lack of trust among the Reddit community," Johnson continued. "We will not stop until we see action taken."
The vocal commentators on the petition page blasted Huffman for alleged censorship and openly questioned what else may have been edited in the past. "He went way overboard. Freedom of speech must prevail," said Michael Iwaniak from Germany.
Lucas Schlessinger, from Vancouver, wrote: "Terrible abuse of power. Makes me think what other comments have been edited by Reddit admins." While US-based James Meister said: "This may have been funny to him but shows gross negligence on his part with his responsibilities as CEO."
Huffman is believed to have an estimated net worth of $4 million. A computer science graduate, he started Reddit with a classman called Alexis Ohanian in 2005. It was later acquired by Conde Nast in October 2006. After a few years of absence, he returned to replace Pao in 2015.
He previously faced resignation demands from Trump supporters following an "Ask Me Anything" session in July after users accused him of influencing the outcome of its "upvotes" – Reddit's method of measuring the popularity of a post.