CALIFORNIA—Reddit, a popular social news website headquartered in San Francisco, has been experiencing blackouts since July 2. The blackouts are a form of protest by the site’s moderators, in light of recent actions taken by the company’s staff.
The firing of Victoria Taylor, AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) coordinator, set off the protests.
A Reddit account is not needed to browse through the site’s material; however, it is necessary in order to post material. People with accounts are known as redditors. Redditors can post material in “subreddits”, independently-moderated sections of the site that are similar to discussion forums, dedicated to a specific topic. For example, if a redditor has a picture of landscape, this material belongs in /r/Pics or /r/EarthPorn, depending on whether or not the redditor’s post complies with the subreddit’s rules. Other redditors can either “up vote” or “down vote” this post, and if a post receives enough up votes, the post can reach the front page of Reddit.
Reddit aims for free expression on the internet, and has even been thanked by President Obama for doing so. Their slogan is “the front page of the internet.”
There are many popular subreddits: /r/funny, /r/GetMotivated, /r/Fitness, /r/WritingPrompts. There is even an annual Secret Santa that has participants worldwide.
Victoria Taylor was a coordinator of /r/AMA, which stands for Ask Me Anything. Many people, including celebrities, have participated in this subreddit. When celebrities take part in this, Victoria would help transcribe to speed up the process and answer as many questions as possible.
She was fired on Thursday, July 2. Interim CEO, Ellen Pao, did not comment on the firing. There has been no confirmation as to whether or not Pao was involved in the firing, but redditors seem to think that she was. That day, the front page was full of references to Pao.
Following this announcement, many subreddit moderators (who are not Reddit employees) turned “off” subreddits by setting them private, making them inaccessible to most redditors. This caused the blackouts on the site, which took place from July 2 into July 3.
Pao recently fired David Croach, the Reddit community manager. He wrote on Reddit that he had been treated for leukemia and was now well enough to return to Reddit, but was still let go because he was not in good enough health to perform his job. He also stated that he is being given severance pay, including one year of medical coverage.
Ellen Pao states that changes are being made to improve Reddit.
Pao, who joined Reddit in 2013, is also known for her publicized gender discrimination lawsuit against her employer Kleiner Perkins.
Redditors were also angry due to the lack of communication between Reddit and the subreddit moderators.
On June 10, several subreddits, including /r/FatPeopleHate, were shut down because they were controversial and lead to harassment issues. This caused the front page to blow up with copycats of the banned subreddits. Critics of the move said that Reddit was banning too much, and some said it was not enough.
Reddit is currently functional, with 48 out of the 50 closed subreddits up and running.