Reddit CEO pushes back against blackout—Will let users vote out moderators

Innovation

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman fired back Thursday against the leaders of a days-long blackout on many of the site’s subreddits in protest of planned changes to the company’s API pricing, telling NBC and NPR a “small group” of users are driving the protest and the company is considering making it easier for users to kick out moderators.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman at hearing.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced in an interview Thursday that Reddit would pursue changes allowing users to vote out subreddit moderators, many of which are participating in a blackout protest against Reddit. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

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Key Takeaways
  • Huffman told NBC he plans to implement a system that would allow users to vote out the volunteer moderators who run subreddits—a proposed change that comes as many subreddits either remain dark or operate at a limited capacity in protest of reddit’s planned changes, drawing mixed receptions from the site’s users.
  • Currently, Reddit moderators can only be removed from their positions by higher ranked moderators or by Reddit itself for policy violations or inactivity.
  • The CEO said the “pathway out” of the current conflict “is actually more democracy.”
  • Huffman didn’t specify when a new policy could go into effect, but he argued generally that moderators should be accountable to users rather than staying in place and wielding extensive power over their subreddits like “landed gentry.”
  • The CEO said in a separate interview with NPR that the blackout—led by a “small group”—has not cost the company all that much but that it did create “a fair amount of trouble.”
  • Reddit’s new API fees will charge third-party apps for access to site data—a change developers have said will force them to shut down due to the millions of dollars it would take to continue operating, but the company argues will prevent third-party companies from using Reddit’s content without paying for it or allowing ads.
  • Reddit has said it will not go back on its planned changes, but Huffman noted the company is willing to negotiate with “most third-party developers,” according to NPR.
Key Background

The blackout over Reddit’s upcoming API changes took off Monday with more than 8,000 subreddits participating. This meant the millions of users who followed the pages either had limited access or no access to some of their favorite pages.

The move has continued into Thursday, with more than 5,000 of the 8,000 subreddits that entered a blackout earlier this week remaining dark. The protest was planned to end Wednesday for most subreddits before an internal company memo published by The Verge was released. It revealed messages to Reddit employees informing them that the blackouts did not have a significant impact on revenue and that the company expected it to pass.

The memo became a primary driver behind continued blackouts from subreddits, some of which have followed different timelines for their respective blackouts, which has raised the ire of some users.

Contra

Third-party developers like Apollo and Reddit is Fun, which produce apps that provide users with alternative Reddit interfaces, plan to shut down at the end of June due to the API pricing changes. Apollo founder Christian Selig said his team would incur costs of $20 million a year if the app was kept online after the changes are implemented. Huffman told NPR that although Reddit is willing to negotiate with most developers, negotiations with Apollo and Reddit is Fun have broken down.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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