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Red faces at Reddit

Chief exec of social news aggregator faces backlash for editing user-generated posts

REDDIT CRACKS DOWN ON ABUSIVE USERS

The chief executive of social news aggregator Reddit, known for its anti-censorship stance, has announced plans to take action against abusive users.

In a post last Thursday, Mr Steve Huffman said he has identified "hundreds of the most toxic users" and will be issuing warnings and handing out temporary or permanent bans.

The reason Mr Huffman, who also co-founded the platform, gave for the bans was that the offenders had violated Reddit's content policy, which is to "show enough respect to others so we may all enjoy Reddit for what it is".

Many of the users affected come from a particular niche forum, also known as a subreddit, dedicated to US President-elect Donald Trump (www.reddit.com/r/The_Donald).

The move comes after revelations that some posts in that subreddit, falsely accusing Mr Huffman of being a paedophile, had been tampered with. Mr Huffman had himself edited the defamatory posts and substituted his user name with prominent members of the Donald Trump thread.


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The move was seen as petty and vindictive by many users, and unbecoming of the chief architect of a site which boasts 234 million active users a month.

In a post admitting his mistake, Mr Huffman said: "It does get old getting called a paedophile constantly. As the CEO, I shouldn't play such games, and it's all fixed now. Our community team is pretty (angry) at me, so I most assuredly won't do this again."

But the damage had been done.

Reddit, which had long been regarded as a "bastion of free speech", allows users to share Web links, photos and text posts around any subject. Redditors either vote a post up or down, which in turn affects a post's visibility for other users. Many users also saw Mr Huffman's actions as a clear act of political bias.

During the US election, some Reddit users have said that threads relating to Mr Trump had been deleted or made less visible without any explanation.

One user said the actions were "as serious as Twitter deciding to edit someone's tweet, without any notification, to say something else and pass it off as that person's writing". An online petition calling for Mr Huffman's sacking has so far garnered more than 6,000 supporters.

Following the backlash, Mr Huffman said: "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. I hope our transparency around this event is an indication that we take matters of trust seriously."

By stepping in to edit user-generated content, Mr Huffman has possibly made Reddit less trustworthy and authentic. After all, how would users know what they are reading really is what was originally posted? On a broader front, it also brings to the fore the immense challenges of weeding out "fake" news.

Allowing an algorithm to tweak a news feed could prove disastrous if it were not done properly, while appointing an editorial team of people could potentially lead to biases. Meanwhile, it is prudent for social media users to take things they read online with not just a pinch, but a handful of salt.

TAKE HEART


The Singapore Heart Foundation has released an entertaining video to educate the public about what to do in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest. The clip has been viewed more than 130,000 times and has been well received by Facebook users. PHOTO: YOUTUBE

.The Singapore Heart Foundation has released an entertaining video in an effort to educate the public about what to do in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

In the minute-long clip, three dodgy-looking men sporting fake tattoos are seen idling in a coffee shop before one of them suddenly collapses on the floor.

The other two quickly do the necessary to help their fallen compatriot, including performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and fetching an automated external defibrillator. "Even my runners know how to save a life, please learn this," says one of the gangster-like men.

The clip has been viewed more than 130,000 times and has been well received by Facebook users.

"I applaud the campaign. Would love it if you have more targeted videos with a possibly more diverse audience. I believe, statistically, other ethnicities are genetically predisposed to heart conditions too," said user Arun Raj.

The Singapore Heart Foundation is a non-profit charity organisation started in 1970 to battle heart disease.

BOLLYWOOD ACTRESS' BOO-BOO OVER BOOK

Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty has been ridiculed online after she mistook a literary classic for a fuzzy tale about caring for animals.

Shetty said George Orwell's Animal Farm - a 1945 dystopian tale about revolution and dictatorship - should be required reading for Indian schoolchildren as it will teach them to "love and care for animals".

Her comments appeared in a Times of India newspaper article about a new school syllabus for English literature.

Twitter users wasted no time in mocking Shetty's ignorance.

The meme, hashtagged #ShilpaShettyReviews, was the top trend in India. There were hundreds of alternative suggestions for her faux pas.

"The Hobbit is good. All children should develop good hobbits," said user Harish Iyengaar.

"The Life of Pi should be read by all children as it will enhance their mathematical skills," said user Shashank Singh.

"Fifty Shades Of Grey is an amazing colouring book. Children will love it #ShilpaShettyReviews" tweeted Vishal Purohit.

But it looks like the 41-year-old star is taking it in her stride. A day later, she posted a photo on her Instagram account with the caption: "Never waste your time trying to explain who you are to people who are committed to misunderstanding you."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Red faces at Reddit'. Print Edition | Subscribe