Reddit is imploding after firing AMA coordinator

In the wake of the lengthy drama surrounding the shut down of multiple subreddits promoting online harrassment, Reddit is now facing a far bigger crisis. Earlier this week, the company fired Victoria Taylor, who had been the company’s point person for organizing celebrity “Ask me Anything” events in which famous people respond to user-submitted questions. President Obama’s AMA was so big that it crashed the site.

No explanation has been given yet for Taylor’s dismissal — Taylor has said she knows as much as we do as to why she was let go. In any case, the site is quickly learning that they may have made a huge mistake. Taylor was seen as one of the few reliable lines of communication between the site’s formal employees and its user base, and hundreds of subreddits — including its largest subreddit, r/funny — have shut down in protest, sending the company into full panic mode. The situation is informally nicknamed “Victoria’s Secret” or “the Darkening” (a play on “the Fappening” and “the Fattening”, Reddit drama based on the mass leak of nude celebrity photos and the aforementioned banning of subreddits bullying fat people respectively).

Victoria Taylor

Victoria Taylor

She is credited with making the subreddit /r/IAMA as successful as it was. She was responsible for verifying the identities of celebrities answering user questions — a function that the subreddit’s moderators have said other admins are not nearly as committed to. She acted as a crucial communication point between redditors, the company itself and prospective interviewees. However, with her being fired abruptly with no reason given, redditors and interviewees have been left in the lurch.

Victoria allegedly offered to continue working for free to get to the end of the scheduled AMAs, but her offer was declined. This means that moderators have no way of communicating with the people who were scheduled to be interviewed. As a much loved staple to the Reddit community, her dismissal hit hard, and anger over the decision was immediately seen in the way that hundreds of subreddits went private (so no-one can access them) in protest, including some of the biggest default ones – /r/science has 8.5 million subscribers, /r/askreddit has 8.9 subscribers and /r/todayilearned has 8.7 million subscribers, to name a few. A full list of subreddits that have closed their doors in response can be found here.

There are many alleged reasons as to why she was fired. Initial speculation was that it could have had something to do with the recent, disastrous AMA that Jesse Jackson participated in. A more likely reason is that she had been receiving pressure from the company to do more to commercialize AMAs. A now-deleted Quora post reads:

quora

A hasty non-apology from the company this morning didn’t add any explanation, either.

However, the protest isn’t entirely about Victoria’s departure — that served as the catalyst for a far deeper issue. As one redditor wrote:

As much as Victoria is loved, this reaction is not all a result of her departure: 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.

The chaos on the site has led many users to leave Reddit in favor of voat.co, a reddit lookalike website that boasts of having far less censorship. Many subreddits are debating whether or not to show solidarity, with mods keeping their subscribers updated on the unfolding state of their decision, until one is finally made. Some subreddits like /r/ASOIAF (about the Game of Thrones book series) have threads in which subscribers themselves can add in their opinion as to whether that specific community should go dark (in this case with a majority leaning towards yes, with many comments calling for the subreddit to “take the black!”).  A list stream of subreddits deciding to stay up or go private can be found here.

Some popular subreddits made the controversial move to stay open, and have received backlash from their subscribers — /r/pcmasterrace has seen thousands of users unsubscribe, with the amount lost increasing by the minute, due to their “business as usual” approach to the drama.

 

Many subreddits have come back online in response to the admin’s response, having felt their message was heard. However, there is a counter-movement demanding that the resistance stay strong for at least 24 hours, lest their solidarity fall apart too early.

For being one of the largest online communities in the world, Reddit has consistently proven to be a remarkably poorly-managed company. It relies heavily on the free labor supplied by its nearly ten thousand volunteer moderators, and has demonstrated a complete lack of regard for its relationship with them.

It remains to be seen if the site will weather this storm.

Holly Blackler
Holly Blackler is a University student in the final year of her degree, which is a double major in Political Science and Philosophy with a minor in Media. She writes on a variety of things, but focuses on social issues and international events.

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  • agnar150

    I am glad people are moving to voat.cc much better place to hang out.

  • quax

    Because most smart phones are not waterproof.

  • zerosumgame0005

    like the KKK “rebranding” itself, PR all by itself just looks creepty

  • zerosumgame0005

    AOL was a real abusive “service”, I really liked Compuserve First site to host a MORPG (not massive, like 4 could play at a time :P ) Never Winter Knights, I think it was the first, pretty graphic for the times unlike most MUDs back then

  • vrk

    I won’t mention the irony of you communicating such a sentiment on the comments section of a blog.

  • The_Fixer

    Among some people on the Internet, it would be. I suppose in terms of measuring public opinion, particularly within a certain segment of the population, it would be a bad thing (although just what that segment would be might be hard to determine). And I have to admit, I occasionally visit there and read the “Ask Me Anything” interactions with celebrities (and wanna-be celebrities) whom I find interesting, those can be sometimes be fun. I’ve read other threads that were serious and interesting as well.

    But in the end, it is much like the degradation, or loss, of any other site on the Internet. In the grand scheme of things, it matters most to those who have a particular affection toward any given online community. Most often, those folks decry the loss as being a blow to free speech, but really it is a temporary loss of convenient free expression to some enthusiasts rather than to the greater public.

    Like anything else on the Internet, it’s a loss when a person feels that they have an investment in some site or community that falls apart. I’m simultaneously indifferent, yet interested from a social observer’s point of view. Which makes sense; the Reddit “community” is a rather diverse entity featuring the best and worst of human behavior.

  • The_Fixer

    Sounds more like they have to change their game completely. Stepping up a PR campaign while still pissing people off is much like sprinkling perfume on a pile of manure. It’s still manure, even if it smells better.

  • hidflect

    Chairman Pao has successfully wrecked the site in a few short months. Nothing less than her head on a spike will suffice.

  • hauksdottir

    Ah, yes. Admins taking advantage of unpaid volunteers by asking ever more from them, keeping them in the dark, treating them like shit… totally ignoring the blunt cold fact that without the enthusiasm and effort and time of the volunteers, there would be no content, no people management, and no site traffic. I was a SysOp at CompuServe and a Moderator at Renderosity. I know what it takes to build a working online community, and how quickly and nastily the whole thing can blow apart under clueless admins tromping around.

    Words matter. When the entire content of your site is words and more words, prompt clear communication is even more important.

  • timncguy

    why do they all look like they haven’t had a shower in two weeks?

  • Max Mills

    Reddit needs to step up its PR game lately

  • Indigo

    Am I to think that the loss of Reddit (whatever that is) is a bad thing?

  • maria_rmartin
  • SkippyFlipjack
  • koolaidyarn

    Definitely. Reddit’s biggest problem has always been too much censorship. &lt/s&gt

  • Gindy51

    Not gonna happen. Many users of social media are home bound, live in far off places with little ability to see the world, and they enjoy their online friends who live in places they can never get to. While not home bound, I have friends all over the planet who share with me their daily lives, I have learned things not found in books and have taught others not all Americans are the shit heels they see in their media.

  • nicho

    The day that all (anti) social media implode will be a good one. That’s when people will start — I don’t know — talking to eack other or going to meetings and doing something, instead of pecking away online talking about doing something.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    “…a reddit lookalike website that boasts of having far less censorship.”

    Oh, joy. That sounds, well.. worse.

  • 2karmanot

    Ribbit, ribbit

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