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Reddit’s Mini Crisis

Why is Reddit currently going through a period of turmoil?

10Jul

Known as ‘the front page of the Internet’, Reddit’s interface looks like it was thrown together in a couple of hours.

That is, however, the look its creators were going for. The site’s association with Anonymous, the notorious hacker-group which has been known to reveal the identities of former Ku Klux Klan members, coupled with the controversial links its users post, has meant that it’s got a reputation as being the Internet’s Wild West.

In an article in the Washington Post, Caitlin Dewy examined what would happen if Reddit went offline tomorrow. It turns out that Powerhouses, such as Amazon and YouTube, would feel a considerable hit, with the biggest losers most likely to be porn sites.

They wouldn’t be the biggest losers. Reddit’s a meritocracy, rewarding users who continually share interesting content. Without Reddit, content which would have previously been hidden, would stay hidden. Reddit supports news websites and blogs and gives people more chance to get their work read.

Yet the site’s going through a period of turmoil at the moment. Ellen Pao, whose been CEO of Reddit since 2013, is under real pressure. In an announcement on the site yesterday, Reddit claimed that it had ‘screwed up’. Whilst there was no reference to Pao in the post, it’s likely that it was in response to the company’s dismissal of Victoria Taylor, who according to the Independent was part of the site’s ‘behind the scenes team’. She played an essential role in Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ community, and had an important role in developing a number of ‘Subreddits’.

Cries of revolt were being heard yesterday, with a petition to remove Pao as CEO reaching 163,108 signatures. All happening within the space of four days, it goes to show how vulnerable companies can be when their CEO’s actions don’t reflect what its users want. In fairness to Pao, much of the hate targeted at her might be a result of her shutting down a number of popular Subreddits - including ‘Fat People Hate’ - which she felt was inappropriate.

Under the guise of cracking down on harassment, Reddit’s users felt that Pao was cutting off their ability to converse freely. Cleansing content doesn’t sit well with Reddit’s users and this, as well as the firing of Taylor, is likely to be the main reason why Pao’s reign is likely to be coming to an end soon.

As an ardent user of the site, it would be a sad day for internet if Reddit were to go under. Reddit functions best when it’s left to its own devices and Pao’s attempt to moderate the site goes to the very core of why Reddit has been so successful.

Whilst its closure seems unlikely, firing Taylor, one of its most well-liked employees, shows that there’s a degree of misdirection at the top of the company’s structure and perhaps a lack of understanding of audience requirements.

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