Reddit has been in turmoil since this Thursday, with more than 265 Subreddits closing their doors. While most the large subreddits have returned to normal operations, many smaller Subreddits continue in lockdown.
The move comes after the abrupt firing of Reddit employee Victoria Taylor, the site’s director of talent. Victoria was responsible for handling the site’s “Ask Me Anything” interviews, one of Reddit’s most popular features.
It is currently unclear as to why Taylor was terminated. She has not provided any comment regarding the matter, suggesting she signed a non-disclosure agreement. Nevertheless, various Subreddits were quick to express their dissatisfaction with the move. /r/IAma was the first to go private. Following them were /r/Pics, /r/Books, /r/Gaming, and /r/Askreddit among others. After promises from Reddit admins to improve communication with the moderators, most of the largest Subreddits reopened.
The decision to reopen was not entirely well received. /r/Gaming moderators have even gone as far as to delete all comments criticizing their decision to reopen.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has since claimed responsibility for the turmoil, acknowledging the situation was poorly handled and apologizing for the decision. However, there have been allegations that Ohanian was, in fact, the admin who fired Taylor. In a series of messages with a /r/Science moderator, it was revealed that Ohanian is actually trying to wrestle control of AMAs from the moderators.
As the situation with Ohanian suggests, the discontent goes far beyond just the sacking of Taylor. At its core, increasing censorship and the higher ups adamant refusal to listen to the user base is what is alienating Redditors.
The revolts have prompted a series of extremely suspect actions by the Reddit Admins. Just hours after /r/Pics was shut down it was reopened, allegedly because the administration had seized control of the Subreddit from moderators. After /r/Pics reopened, any pictures that contained “Victoria” in the title were being systematically removed. In an AMA, former admin Dacvak claimed that Ellen Pao, Reddit’s CEO, had fired him while he was fighting cancer. The AMA has since been removed.
Much of Reddit’s discontent has been targeted at CEO Ellen Pao, who they liken to Adolf Hitler and refer to as “Chairman Pao Zhedong.” A petition calling for Pao to relinquish her position has received over 100,000 signatures. While Pao has yet to address the Reddit community, she has spoken with the New York Times. In which she said she believes that “the most virulent detractors on the site are a vocal minority.” The aforementioned New York Times article has been removed from the /r/News Subreddit.
The questionable decisions and censorship still continue. User kickme444, the director of Reddit’s Secret Santa, has also been let go. His post regarding the subject has been removed. The PaoIsKillingReddit Subreddit has also been banned. Users have even gone as far to compare Reddit’s censorship policies to that of the Chinese government, and their “Great Firewall.”
What is happening to Reddit is reminiscent of what happened to news aggregator Digg. After Digg administration’s fervent refusal to listen to their users, the website was largely abandoned. Reddit would be wise to not go down the same path.