Moderators revealed the awards last week with a number of different designs relating to Ms Petito, whose body was found in Wyoming last month after a road trip with her fiance, Brian Laundrie.
While Ms Petito’s death has been ruled a homicide, he has remained on the run from authorities — the facts of which have been widely debated on Reddit’s r/GabbyPetito thread, which has more than 150,000 “Redditors”. He has been indicted for fraud but has not faced any charges relating to her death. On Tuesday a coroner revealed that she had been strangled.
In an apology at the weekend, a group of Reddit moderators admitted that designs and captions for user awards were “tasteless” and “poorly worded”. Another moderator also acknowledged that it was “inappropriate”.
“We apologise to the memory of Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito as well as to the Petito & Schmidt families,” the moderators wrote in an apology.
“We extend our humble apologies to the r/gabbypetito community for failing to exercise appropriate judgement and for our failure to offer concise and transparent information when responding to questions, confusion, and rightful criticism.”
The awards, which Reddit users collect as a form of currency for contributing, caused many to argue that moderators were benefiting from the death of Ms Petito, if not disrespecting her.
Others suggested the criticism was uncalled for.
Moderators refused to accept that anyone was profiting from it and wrote that “a misconception rapidly spread that the mod team was using Community Awards in order to profit from the death of Gabby Petito”.
Among the images for the awards were a mountainous terrain, a “road trippin” van and an FBI detective.
One user wrote: “It’s absolutely bizarre. Personalised awards are meh to me, I don’t get why adults care but for positive subs I do get they’re just for fun.”
“But a sub about a murdered girl. Who the f*** wakes up one day and thinks about creating awards for it?”
Another added: “The last time I read an analysis like this I was paying 40k per semester. Let the haters hate. You can only apologise and do better tomorrow. This group has become a zoo.”