Reddit’s comparatively open nature has come back to bite it with a protest over the firing of a leading employee. Victoria Taylor was a key figure in the popular “Ask Me Anything” sessions on the site.
Taylor, who used the name “chooter” on the site, was in charge of recruiting and verifying participants, both celebrities and people with expertise on topics. The feature once (before Taylor’s hiring) saw a session with Barack Obama answering questions. Taylor was also responsible for working with moderators to deal with the inevitable barrage of prank questions and abuse.
Users aren’t simply annoyed with the decision to fire Taylor, but the lack of notice and the failure to appoint anyone else to handle the Ask Me Anything sessions, meaning several had to be cancelled at short notice. The incident also appears to have been the final straw for some users who had simmering resentments over management of Reddit, particularly over recent rules barring harassment on the site.
Given that it would be impossible for reddit’s employee staff to monitor all posts on the site, most of the nearly 10,000 sections (subreddits) are overseen by volunteer moderators. With the assistance of users of each section, they determine the overall tone and the level of moderation, right up to an “anything goes” approach.
The moderators of “IAmA”, the main subreddit for hosting Ask Me Anything sessions, have responded to the Taylor incident by switching on an option to make the subreddit private, with posts only viewable by invited users. That’s sparked similar moves by many other subreddits, including some for the most popular categories and several which are more infamous. In effect, large parts of Reddit are now inaccessible to the general public against the control of the site’s management.
Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian has responded by posting a message to the protestors reading:
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.