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Reddit CEO says there is ‘misbehavior’ on website, but only among a ‘minority’ of users

  • "I think people – not just Redditors, but people – are fundamentally good and interesting and if you give them an opportunity to do so they will be," Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said
  • Reddit has tried to crack down on a number of controversial communities, called 'subreddits,' on the site in recent years

There are users that "misbehave" on Reddit but they a minority, the chief executive of the content sharing website said Wednesday.

"Yes, there is misbehavior, but that's generally in the minority, and it's very important to us that we make the voices of various groups on Reddit, the volume of their voices proportionate to the size of the audience," Steve Huffman told CNBC at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

"Because I think people – not just Redditors, but people – are fundamentally good and interesting and if you give them an opportunity to do so they will be."

Reddit has tried to crack down on a number of controversial communities, called "subreddits," on the site in recent years, due to the distribution of offensive content. The site has moved to "quarantine" certain subreddits, essentially preventing users from posting images or generating revenue, in an effort to quell the prominence of these online groups.

One particular group, r/The_Donald, was brought into question last year during the U.S. presidential election battle between Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. r/The_Donald is a subreddit devoted to supporters of the now-President Trump.

Huffman himself was at the center of a row with the subreddit in November last year. The Reddit CEO admitted he had edited comments from Reddit users criticizing him, by changing references to his own username and replacing them with moderators of the pro-Trump community.

Huffman said: "We generally at Reddit want these things to play out, let communities be themselves, let people be themselves. But there are limits to that. In the same way there are limits to free speech in the U.S., there's limits to what you can do on Reddit. Where we draw the line is when it effects people's safety."

Addressing the fact that he edited users' comments, he said: "That was done in jest … it wasn't totally received that way but I think within our community it wasn't the craziest thing that's happened on Reddit."

Reddit has since come down hard on controversial subreddits. In October, the site implemented a ban on content that "glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people." This led to the shutting down of Nazi groups, including r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi and r/Far_Right.

Social media 'echo chambers'

Social media giants have come under fire over the past year due to the use of algorithms that curate content to users. Some believe that this has led to the creation of echo chambers that accentuate the views and opinions people want to see, while dampening those that they disagree with.

Huffman said that content tailoring algorithms have "gotten so good" on social media that users only see the content that they want to see, completely filtering out that which they don't like.

He said that Reddit works "a little bit differently" but admitted that its efforts to make users feel relevant, by making sure users see content that is "interesting and engaging" to them, could also form echo chambers.

"I think we'll see an evolution of these algorithms over time because I think variety is the spice of life and you want to see interesting things and you want to see other perspectives, and we want people to have that experience as well."

'Many of our users have probably grown up not ever actually seeing a front page'

Reddit's site is also undergoing a huge design revamp.

Reddit calls itself the "front page of the internet," and is trying to do "everything at once" to catch up with its content sharing peers, Huffman told CNBC.

"People need a home online, a place where they can go and be a part of a community and find things that they're interested in," he said.

Referring to the site's tagline, Huffman said: "Now many of our users have probably grown up not ever actually seeing a front page."

The company raised $200 million in funding from venture capital investors including Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital, and Sam Altman, president of start-up accelerator Y Combinator.

"What we've been working on all year is redesigning Reddit. The website has not changed in five or six years," Huffman said.

Reddit now wants to make the site's user interface more visually appealing. Although Huffman said he preferred the fact that the site looked "old" and "imperfect," he said that a redesign was vital.

The site is introducing a "card view" feature to display images, much in the same way that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter display images on a news feed or timeline.

Asked whether the redesign would arrive before Trump delivers tax reform, the executive joked: "We'll be done in (the first quarter). Tax reform ... I'm not holding my breath."