#Reddit Is Revolting (http://www.wired.com/2015/07/reddit-amageddon/)

Reddit Revolt

A couple weeks ago, Reddit faced a backlash from their users after they decided to ban a few sub-Reddits which they felt violated the site’s policies against harassment.

Most notably this ban included a charming sub-Reddit named /r/FatPeopleHate that had over 150,000 subscribers and which featured pictures of obese people plus invitations to subscribers to ridicule the people in the photos by posting comments.

Much of the backlash from Reddit’s users was based on the fact that the sub-Reddits that were banned seemed to be chosen at random (or targeted specifically?) when a number of other sub-Reddits that had harassing content were left alone, not to mention the many sub-Reddits that deal in much more offensive content.

(Reddit’s response is that the latter sub-Reddits – eg. one featuring pictures of corpses – isn’t harassment even if it is offensive and they are trying to make a distinction saying “We are banning behaviour, not ideas” in targeting sub-Reddits that they see as promoting harassment.)

There is/was a widespread perception that the banning of these sub-Reddits was part of an ongoing attempt to clean up the site which will help Reddit better monetize its position as one of the Top 50 most visited web sites in the world and Top 10 in the US under the guidance of controversial interim CEO, Ellen Pao. (In fact, some observers see these types of changes as part of an ongoing digital “culture war” between the original wild west, “anything goes” free speech ethic of the world wide web and the newer, advertiser-friendly, corporate version.  Given these competing tensions, Reddit users responded to the bans in hyperbolic fashion.)

That controversy died somewhat only to be replaced by an even bigger one after the sudden firing of a staff member, Victoria Taylor (aka /u/chooter) who was perhaps the site’s best known employee as the staff coordinator for many of Reddit’s popular AMA (Ask Me Anything) Q&A sessions with celebrities, politicians, tech leaders and others.

(Speculation about why Taylor was fired has ranged from her (mis)-handling of a recent controversial AMA with Jesse Jackson to her reluctance to relocate to San Francisco to her resistance to attempts to commercialize the AMAs in various ways although unsurprisingly, neither Taylor nor Reddit management are talking.)

Taylor’s firing prompted hundreds of sub-Reddits including many of the site’s largest sub-Reddits to switch to “private” mode which essentially made them invisible to users. Most sub-Reddits came back within a day but many are still expressing frustration and saying that this rebellion is about more than the firing of a well-liked, vital employee.  Instead, it’s about how the paid admin staff of Reddit fail to respond to concerns of the volunteer moderators of the various sub-Reddits or provide decent tools to help the mods oversee and manage the content which makes the site so popular.  There are also many larger meta-issues informing this situation as well, not the least of which is how you develop and manage online communities.

Reddit’s staff including co-founder Alexis O’Hanian (aka /u/kn0thing) have responded to “The Blackout” in ways ranging from sarcastic to apologetic to subdued panicky to tone deaf.

There’s lots of commentary, both on Reddit and beyond, about this rebellion. As always, MetaFilter has some of the most interesting commentary (although I can’t help but note the analogy one MeFite posted of Metafilter being like a high end coffee shop with intellectuals chatting while Reddit is like a popular Starbucks with a wider range of clients – some intellectuals but also frat bros hitting on the barista, creepy weirdos in the corner and so on! – so read the MetaFilter thread with that in mind!)

Digg, which ironically lost its position as the top community voting site to Reddit after making drastic changes to commercialize the site which were unpopular with their own users, also has a summary of Reddit’s revolt as well.

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