Reddit CEO Suggests User Votes to Remove Moderators

In an attempt to quell a user-led protest that has rendered large parts of Reddit inaccessible, CEO Steve Huffman has announced plans to institute rule changes that would allow users to vote out moderators overseeing the protest.

Huffman compared the current moderators to a “landed gentry” and expressed his desire for a more democratic system to NBC News. This was part of what seemed like the Reddit CEO’s media tour yesterday, speaking to various news outlets.

The protest, which began on Monday, has led to the shutdown of thousands of message boards, known as subreddits. The action was initiated by Reddit’s unpaid, volunteer moderators, who have a high level of control over their subreddits. The protesters are opposing changes that would likely cut off their ability to access Reddit through third-party apps, significantly impacting the site’s functionality.

Huffman plans to revise Reddit’s moderator removal policy to allow ordinary users to vote out moderators more easily if their decisions are unpopular. The current policy allows for the removal of moderators by higher-ranking moderators or by Reddit itself for inactivity or violations of Reddit-wide rules.

The protest, which was initially intended to last two days, has been extended by moderators of some of the biggest subreddits, including r/funny. The organizers of the blackout stated in a post titled “The Fight Continues” that their core concerns have not been addressed and that Reddit has been silent since the protest began.

Huffman believes that the leaders of the protest may have lost popular support since the protest started. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that protests are representative of their communities. He also stated that about 80% of Reddit’s top 5,000 communities have reopened after the strike.

The CEO clarified that he is not considering changes that would centralize power within Reddit as a company. Instead, he aims to increase democracy within the platform and work out old, legacy decisions on how communities are run.

The protest is a response to Reddit’s plan to charge other businesses more for access to its application programming interface (API), which is expected to affect third-party apps like Apollo or RIF. Huffman expressed no sympathy for these apps, stating that Reddit cannot subsidize other businesses to run a competitive app for free.

Huffman did not provide a timeline for the proposed changes but expressed optimism that more subreddits might end their protests voluntarily. He also mentioned the possibility of revenue-sharing, allowing subreddits to become businesses if they choose.

Fast forward to today, and The Verge has obtained a memo Reddit has been sending to moderators, basically telling them to reopen subreddits or be threatened:

If there are mods here who are willing to work towards reopening this community, we are willing to work with you to process a Top Mod Removal request or reorder the mod team to achieve this goal if mods higher up the list are hindering reopening. We would handle this request and any retaliation attempts here in this modmail chain immediately.

Our goal is to work with the existing mod team to find a path forward and make sure your subreddit is made available for the community which makes its home here. If you are not able or willing to reopen and maintain the community, please let us know.

This whole Reddit saga doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon. Huffman seems to be digging in their heels and this is a fight that may last longer than expected. Grab the popcorn folks…

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