Furore over 'tone deaf' Gabby Petito awards on social media as manhunt continues

Moderators of a social media forum dedicated to the Gabby Petito case have made an apology after introducing awards for users, which were criticised for being "tone deaf".

The subreddit was created just days before Gabby was found dead, after being reported missing back in September.

The subreddit allows people to discuss anything related to Gabby's ongoing murder case, ask questions or share information.

However on October 7, one moderator from the group designed and shared some very specific community "awards", many of which were in reference to Gabby's case.

An autopsy found Gabby Petito's manner of death was homicide. Source: Instagram
Gabby Petito's death has been the source of much discussion on social media. Source: Instagram

"These (the awards) were all made with Gabby's essence and vibe at the forefront of our minds," the now-deleted post announcing the awards said, according to the post seen on internet caching website Wayback Machine.

"You won't find any negative ones or any referencing her murder or murderer – that won't change. They were created using meaningful subjects in this subreddit and things she loved."

Among the awards were "Free Spirit Award" and "Basically A Detective" award, however the most controversial of the lot was perhaps the "Road Trippin" award.

"An award for cool things. Like road trips, van life, skateboarding, traveling, and whatever else you just think is awesome. (Could possibly be used if you think somebody is just Trippin' in general - up to you)," the description said.

The awards created by the moderators of the group were considered to be in 'poor taste'. Source: r/GabbyPetito
The awards created by the moderators of the group were considered to be in 'poor taste'. Source: r/GabbyPetito

Site accused of profiteering from Gabby's death

According to the formal apology from the moderators, who have not stepped down, soon after the initial post about the awards was posted, Reddit users began to criticise the moderators.

“Isn't this just a way for Reddit to profit more from Gabby's death?” the first critical comment said according to the apology.

Redditors were accusing the moderators of profiting on the custom awards because when a subreddit gives an award to a user, 'Reddit coins' are spent, but a percentage is given back to the "community bank", which can be spent by moderators from that subreddit.

A sign at a roadside memorial honours the death of Gabby Petito. Source: Getty
A sign at a roadside memorial honours the death of Gabby Petito. Source: Getty

"An additional benefit of utilising Reddit's 'custom award feature' is that when the custom awards are used, the subreddit community 'bank' receives coins," the formal apology explained.

"Moderators can then use these 'community coins' to award the thoughtful efforts of members creating timelines, maps, compilations, resources, finding sources to confirm or discredit rumours, and more."

Subreddit moderators apologise for 'bad taste' awards

While the initial post was scrubbed from the Gabby Petito subreddit and some moderators from the community stepped down, a formal apology acknowledging the controversy was shared.

The apology recognised the awards designed for the community were "in bad taste" and they "derailed any conversations focused on Gabby".

"The moderators of r/GabbyPetito apologise to you, the community, for the tone-deaf awards that were created and shared on the sub, as well as for the improper handling of the situation as it was unfolding," the apology says.

"We would never wish to make light of a situation like this. We realise that a beloved person was murdered and many people now have a hole in their lives.

"Although we did not intend to exacerbate grief or trauma, we did, and we are deeply sorry for not realising that in any stage that came before posting it for you."

Investigators are still looking for her finance Brian Laundrie, who Ms Petito was travelling with before her disappearance.

He has since fled.

Gabby Petito and her boyfriend Brian Laundrie had been together for more than two years. Source: PA via AAP
The subreddit was created days before Gabby Petito's body was found and is a place where people can discuss the case and share relevant information. Source: PA via AAP

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