Reddit in revolt: Moderators shut popular forums to protest sacking

03/07/2015

Popular online community Reddit is experiencing a huge user backlash following the dismissal of a popular staff member.

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The moderators behind a number of the most popular subreddit pages on the site which are key to Reddit’s traffic and appeal have made their communities private, thus shutting them off from the wider internet and new users

The move follows the firing of Victoria Taylor, the employee responsible for managing Reddit’s popular ‘Ask Me Anything’ interviews with celebrities.

In response, r/IAMA shut itself down — and was joined by other huge communities from Reddit's frontpage including r/videos, r/gaming, r/AskReddit and r/science.

Some of the biggest subreddits ‘going 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)

Nallen, a moderator for r/science, said: "I am going to have meaningful problems in the r/Science AMAs; Victoria was the only line of communication with the admins."

And imakuram, a moderator for r/books, said: "We have several AMAs upcoming in r/books and have no idea how to contact the authors."

This is a big deal for the website, because its AMAs are its most high-profile output — among those interviewed by the internet community are President Obama and Bill Gates.

Reddit has not given an official reason, but some have speculated that it was due to a recent AMA session with Reverend Jesse Jackson which went badly wrong.

However, a now deleted answer on Quora suggests that there may be more to it than that.

Karmanaut, one of the moderators of r/IAMA, said: "We learned that Victoria was unexpectedly let go from her position with Reddit. We all had the rug ripped out from under us and feel betrayed. Before doing that, the admins really should have at least talked to us."

According to an r/OutOfTheLoop summary of the debacle, though the shutdown was triggered by Taylor's dismissal, it was the culmination of long-simmering tensions between moderators and administrators over respect and communication.

It reads: "There is a feeling among many of the moderators of reddit that the admins do not respect the work that is put in by the thousands of unpaid volunteers who maintain the communities of the 9,656 active subreddits, which they feel is expressed by, among other things, the lack of communication between them and the admins, and their disregard of the thousands of mods who keep reddit's communities going."

Nallen said: "Dropping this on all of us in the AMA sphere feels like an enormous slap to those of us who put in massive amounts of time to bring quality content to reddit."

Plenty more are debating whether to go private or polling their members. Even those that are staying open are making it clear that they are deeply unhappy with recent developments.

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