Culture

Redditors Revolt, Shut Down Site After Top Administrator Is Fired

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos, ThinkProgress

Longtime and beloved Reddit administrator Victoria Taylor was reportedly fired Thursday without notice, sparking the take down of multiple threads in a site-wide protest.

As the site’s talent director, Taylor — who used the username /u/chooter — had a reputation for actively listening to user and moderator concerns and was the chief administrator for the /r/IAmA or “Ask Me Anything” thread that frequently hosted celebrity Q&As. So when speculation of her firing rose, Redditors fought back by making dozens of once public threads like /r/IAmA, /r/gaming, /r/art, and /r/movies, private and only available to approved moderators and contributors.

Reddit confirmed to CNET that Taylor was fired suddenly, but wouldn’t give additional details.

In a blog post explaining the decision to temporarily close the AMA thread, moderators wrote:

At approximately 5pm UTC, 1pm EST, on Thursday the 2nd of July, 2015, the moderators of /r/IAmA took their subreddit, which is one of the default set, private. This means that only a very small number of people (consisting of the moderators of /r/IAmA, as well as any pre-approved users) could view and post to the subreddit, making it for all intents and purposes shut down; any other redditors would just see this page. Just after that, a thread was posted to this subreddit, asking whether anyone knew why it had happened. /u/karmanaut, top mod of /r/IAmA, responded with an explanation of why they took the subreddit private.

…[T]he mods of /r/IAmA had just found out that without prior warning, /u/chooter, or Victoria, had been released from her position at reddit. They felt that they, along with the other subreddits that host AMAs, should have been warned beforehand, if only so that they could have someone or something in place to handle the transition…many of the mods affected by this do not believe that the admins understand how heavily /u/chooter was relied upon to allow AMAs to go smoothly…Without her, they found themselves in a difficult situation, which is exemplified by what happened today.

Users who go to the front page of popular subreddits are greeted with a message indicating the thread is closed in protest of Taylor’s firing. Art subreddit moderator, Solidwhetstone wrote:

I’ve made /r/art and /r/crappydesign private at this moment because I think a protest is in order. I used to mod /r/IAmA and worked directly with /u/chooter and I’ve seen the decline of reddit throughout Yishan and subsequently Chairman Pao’s regime. Perhaps all of this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. /u/chooter was one of the best employees reddit has ever had — and we as the community need to say — we’ve had enough.

Reddit is completely sustained by its community, and the sudden sunset of the site’s most popular threads is indicative of its prominence and influence in pop and internet culture. Reddit has frequently been criticized for its self-moderating policy that often fostered abusive or bigoted threads. The site recently changed its policy banning harassing or abusive behavior.

UPDATE JUL 3, 2015 1:14 PM

Reddit responded to an earlier ThinkProgress request, reiterating that the company does not comment on individual employee matters. Regarding the protests, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian wrote:

"Your message was received loud and clear. The communication between Reddit and the moderators needs to improve dramatically. We will work closely with you all going forward to ensure events like today don’t happen again. At this point, however, the blackout has served its purpose, and now it’s time to get Reddit functioning again. I know many of you are still upset. We will continue to work through these issues with you all, but Redditors don’t deserve to be punished any further over an issue that is ultimately between Reddit and the moderators."

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UPDATE JUL 3, 2015 1:14 PM

Following the uproar over Redditors protests , Reddit's interim CEO Ellen Pao said in a statement, “I want to apologize for how we handled the transition yesterday. We should have informed the moderators earlier and provided more detail on the transition plan. We are working to make improvements and create the best experience for our users and we aren't always perfect. Our community is what makes Reddit, Reddit and we let you down yesterday.”

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