On Friday, July 3, several Reddit message boards were shut down by moderators as a protest against the firing of Reddit employee Victoria Taylor. Taylor was the website’s director of talent as well as a moderator for the popular subreddit named “Ask Me Anything.”
“Ask Me Anything” is a subreddit dedicated to allowing Reddit users to ask questions and hold conversations with actors, scientists, politicians, and generally interesting people. The success of this particular subreddit is attributed to Taylor, who was fired in 2013 under unknown circumstances.
Around 160 million users have found that the subreddits “Pics”, “Today I Learned”, and “Ask Reddit” went dark as well. A petition was created for the termination of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who is known to have shut down subreddits such as “Fat People Hate” due to harassment concerns. She is also known to have lost a lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers after claiming that she was fired due to sexism.
The petition, called “Step Down as CEO of Reddit Inc” already has 2,907,654 signatures and is 92,346 signatures away from the goal of 3,00,000. The description states: “A vast majority of the Reddit community believes that Pao, “a manipulative individual who will sue her way to the top,” has overstepped her boundaries and fears that she will run Reddit to the ground.
This “new age of censorship,” as the petition calls it, is the reason other Reddit revolts have shaken the site in the past. Reddit, the self-proclaimed front page of the internet, is popular for its user culture. Unique and inclusive, Reddit users have lamented over the loss of various subreddits that were censored due to inappropriate content, as judged by administrators.
Users claim that the subreddits are a reminder of free speech, and although the content may be questionable at times, there is no doubt that a great amount of dedicated users and moderators work to keep those subreddits active. The struggle continues between users wanting to keep restrictions minimal and administrators wanting to take action against offensive content for the sake of growing commercialisation.
“The communication between the Reddit administration team to its subreddit moderators is very lacking and rather unsettling after years of empty promises to the moderators to improve and provide tools to help run subreddits, and ultimately Reddit as a whole, smoothly” states the petition.
Ellen Pao addressed the issue in a moderator post: “We do value moderators; they allow Reddit to function and they allow each subreddit to be unique and to appeal to different communities. This year, we have started building better tools for moderators and for admins to help keep subreddits and Reddit awesome, but our infrastructure is monolithic, and it is going to take some time…As a result, we are breaking some of the ways moderators moderate. We are going to figure this out and fix it”.
A Reddit user abravelittletoaster responded.“Many users are also in support of the blackout. A lot of users (such as myself) are very unhappy with the path this site is heading down and would actually like an answer from you for it. Do you actually care about the users of Reddit at all or do you just see them as replaceable page views you can use to make money?”
As of now, the sites are up and running. On “Ask Reddit”, the sidebar description states that the administration has agreed to improve moderation tools and services by September 30, 2015, and December 31, 2015, respectively. However, it is unknown if Reddit is safe from another revolt in the future.
– Aitana Yvette Mallari, Correspondent (Tech)