Last week, Reddit fired a popular employee Victoria Taylor. Taylor was responsible for the ultra popular Ask Me Anything section of the site and, as a result, the AMA subreddit was made private until the dust settled and the company figured out what to do next. The problem was, the decision was not handled well, and the team scrambled. The Reddit community, for better or worse, is an interesting one, and in solidarity with their former colleague privatized many other subreddits.
As a result, a battle began between the moderators and the staff of the company. That battle was over their treatment and the tools provided to do their job. The community expectedly sided with the moderators, and an online petition was born. The main thrust of the complaint was for the interim CEO, Ellen Pao, to step down. While the petition had been around for a while, it gained major momentum with this firing.
After several public apologies from Pao and hundreds of thousands of signatures on the petition, the company and Pao have decided that she should step down. To replace her, founder and original CEO Steve Huffman will return to the position and work alongside Alexis Ohanian, who will assume the new title "cofounder." Huffman is assuming the CEO position on a permanent basis, as opposed to Pao who was filling the spot while the board searched for a permanent replacement.
In addition to the announcement, the company also showed its dismay over the way Ellen Pao was treated over the past week or so. In grand Reddit tradition, a rational conversation degraded into racial slurs and death threats.
As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. (1) The reduction in compassion that happens when we're all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you.
If the reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community. Steve's great challenge as CEO (2) will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward.
(1) Disagreements are fine. Death threats are not, are not covered under free speech, and will continue to get offending users banned.
Ellen asked me to point out that the sweeping majority of redditors didn't do this, and many were incredibly supportive. Although the incredible power of the Internet is the amplification of voices, unfortunately sometimes those voices are hateful.
It would certainly be nice if we lived in a world where a simple statement of disappointment could change actions, but unfortunately that is not how the Internet works. As stated, behind a monitor, many people become bullies. It will be nice for Pao, however, to not have to deal with this type of treatment anymore.