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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