"We are changing our practices to prohibit attacks and harassment of individuals through reddit with the goal of preventing them," read an online message from interim chief executive Ellen Pao and her team.

"We are unhappy with harassing behavior on reddit; we have survey data that show our users are, too," the message said.

Pao made headlines early this year for her failed gender discrimination suit against prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, which has notably backed Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Pao took charge of reddit after being fired from the venture capital firm.

Reddit said that changes enacted were likely to be noticed by only a miniscule percentage of users and were intended to prevent "attacks against people, not ideas."

"We've seen many conversations devolve into attacks against individuals," the reddit team said.

"Instead of promoting free expression of ideas, we are seeing our open policies stifling free expression; people avoid participating for fear of their personal and family safety."

Reddit joined a growing list of online social networks aiming to stem violence and harassment while attempting to safeguard freedom of online speech.