Reddit revolts: Subforums shut down in protest over AMA co-ordinator sacking
Many of the biggest subreddits on social news site Reddit have shut down to protest against the sacking of a well-liked community co-ordinator.
The so-called “Reddit Revolt” has seen the temporary closure of the site’s gaming, science, history, and cinema subforums by their volunteer moderators, with many more joining in.
The protest is focused on the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a former Reddit employee who was abruptly let go on Thursday. Her role had been to co-ordinate the site’s popular Ask Me Anything series, also known as AMAs, where celebrities answer questions submitted by the Reddit community. The main AMA subforum, “IAmA”, was the first to close in protest.
Over the years, Taylor had brought in some of the site’s biggest successes, including the AMA with President Obama in 2012, and one with a man with two penises in 2014. The contrast between those two events is also a nice way to sum up Reddit to someone who has not heard of the site.
After Taylor’s dismissal, one of the volunteer moderators of the IAmA subforum, karmanaut, wrote : “We all had the rug ripped out from under us and feel betrayed.”
“The admins didn’t realise how much we rely on Victoria. Part of it is proof, of course: we know it’s legitimate when she’s sitting right there next to the person and can make them provide proof. We’ve had situations where agents or others have tried to do an AMA as their client, and Victoria shut that shit down immediately. We can’t do that anymore.”
Karmanaut added: “Part of it is also that Victoria is an essential lifeline of communication. When something goes wrong in an AMA, we can call and get it fixed immediately … Part of it is also organisation. Without her filling this role, we will be utterly overwhelmed. We have been really blindsided by all of this.”
The reasons for Taylor’s dismissal from Reddit remain murky, but a hastily deleted post from an executive at Quora (a Q&A site that is like Reddit, but for Ivy League grads) gives a plausible outline.
Marc Bodnick wrote that the dismissal was because “Reddit management was pushing Victoria to do a bunch of highly commercial things around AMAs, but Victoria wasn’t comfortable with those ideas”. He cited video AMAs as one such example, and said that her resistance led to the sacking.
In a post on CenturyClub – another subforum that has since gone private in protest – Taylor herself expressed bafflement at her dismissal, saying that “you guys know what I know” in relation to her departure.
Reddit has not responded to the Guardian’s request for comment.
Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, said in a post: “We don’t talk about specific employees, but I do want you to know that I’m here to triage AMA requests in the interim.”
“We get that losing Victoria has a significant impact on the way you manage your community. I’d really like to understand how we can help solve these problems, because I know r/IAMA thrived before her and will thrive after.”
A second post from Ohanian, made in a private forum just for Reddit’s volunteer moderators, promised changes going forward in an attempt to encourage the blackouts from continuing. “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,” he wrote . In an effort to improve the relationship with the mods, Ohanian immediately named a new community contact, reddit employee Kristine Fasnacht, and promised greater support for AMAs.
The revolt is the second major user rebellion at Reddit in as many months. Previously, the site had seen a number of high-profile users and subforums express dismay at the closure of subforums such as transfags and fatpeoplehate , which were censured for inciting harassment.
Many users jumped ship from the site for a Swiss-based clone called Voat , which promised a “censorship-free” experience.