The social news site Reddit was hit yesterday by the “Reddit Revolt”, and the front page of the Internet was essentially locked down.
The sudden revolt by Reddit moderators has wreaked havoc on one of the world’s most popular sites, culminating in the shutdown of more than 265 subreddits for a few hours in a protest against the Thursday termination of Victoria Taylor, the site’s director of talent.
Some of the biggest subreddits thae went dark include:
/r/askreddit (8.7 million subscribers)
/r/todayilearned (8.6 million)
/r/pics (8.6 million)
/r/iama (8.3 million)
/r/videos (7.9 million)
/r/gaming (7.8 million)
/r/movies (7.5 million)
/r/technology (5.1 million)
/r/books (4.9 million)
Taylor was the co-ordinator of the site’s wildly popular “Ask Me Anything”’ (AMA) interviews where celebrities, political leaders, pop culture icons or simply people with interesting stories (such as a guy with two penises) would answer questions from the Reddit community.
The reasons behind Taylor’s dismissal have not been disclosed but there is some speculation it was because of Wednesday’s AMA with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a hot mess of hostile questions and bizarre answers.
The revolt, which is being called /r/AMAgeddon, may go deeper than Taylor’s dismissal. There has been increasing frustration among moderators—the unpaid volunteers who manage the site’s myriad and enormous communities—that the company does not appreciate or respect them. They complain about the quality of the moderation tools, and about recent changes to the site’s already bad search functions. To these moderators, the news of Taylor leaving was like “a rug ripped out from underneath us” and became the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Though Reddit is no stranger to drama, this shutdown is a serious one for Reddit. Last month, the site drew the ire of its community when it shut down five of its darkest subreddits like /r/fatpeoplehate or /r/jailbait in an effort to clean up its “anything goes” image. Though these subreddits did violate Reddit’s community policy, the arbitrary enforcement of the site’s guidelines angered many, since other far more offensive subreddits were left untouched while these five were closed.
For the past five years, Reddit’s user-base has grown tremendously, allowing people to share interesting news, photos and stories on the site while also providing opportunities for them to interact with notable people. Reddit site has one of the highest traffic on the Internet, garnering more than 160 million visitors a month.
Ironically, Reddit’s troubles have become more acute after the site sought to rehabilitate its image under interim CEO Ellen Pao. Poorly managed scandals such as last year’s celebrity photo hacks, for which Reddit served as a primary venue, have undermined the site’s brand and threatened to tie it permanently to the worst kind of online harassment and abuse. As a result of the recent changes, Pao has become a target of many redditors who feel any compromise of Reddit’s ideals of free expression and bottom-up moderation undermine its identity.
Pao is not new to controversy. In 2012, Pao had sued the prominent venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), claiming she was passed over for a promotion and that she ultimately lost her job when she claimed discrimination over the move. She lost the case in March this year.
An online petition, started about three weeks ago on Change.org calling for Pao to step down from her Reddit position, has garnered more than 17,000 signatures.