Popular link-sharing site Reddit revolts after communications director Victoria Taylor was let go on Thursday
Moderators, volunteers who manage subreddits, say Taylor was instrumental in the success of the site's AMA series
On Friday, the social news site Reddit was on lockdown.
More than 100 subreddits on gaming, movies, science, etc. went dark for a few hours for the “Reddit Revolt,” a reaction to the news that Reddit’s communications director, Victoria Taylor, was let go on Thursday.
One of Taylor’s roles was coordinating the site’s wildly popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) series, where celebrities, political leaders, pop culture icons or simply people with interesting stories would answer questions from the Reddit community.
“IAmA,” a subforum within the AMA series that hosted President Obama in 2012 and astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was orbiting space during his online chat, was one of the first places on the site to shutdown in protest.
Taylor’s dismissal came as a shock to AMA moderators, who are volunteer users that help manage individual communities within Reddit. One moderator of IAmA shared that the news of Taylor leaving was like “a rug ripped out from underneath us.”
The moderator karmanaut said, “The admins didn’t realise how much we rely on Victoria. Part of it is proof, of course: we know it’s legitimate when she’s sitting right there next to the person and can make them provide proof… for /r/IAMA to work the way it currently does, we need Victoria. Without her, we need to figure out a different way for it to work.”
The reasons behind Taylor’s dismissal are unknown. A spokeswoman from Reddit explained in an email to CNN that the company does not comment on individual employee matters.
Reddit co-founder and executive chair Alexis Ohanian wrote a post to the community on Friday to address the change. “I’m sorry for how we handled communicating change to the AMA team this morning. I take responsibility for that.”
With that said, Ohanian expressed that he would immediately like to have blacked out subreddits back online and work out a plan going forward for the site’s moderators.
“We are building tools to help you all do your jobs more effectively … We will build these with your input and incorporate more transparency. We have many ideas, and we would like to hear yours.”
The site has seen recent controversy after it banned five subreddits, including groups like r/fatpeoplehate and r/hamplanethatred – both which targeted and ridiculed overweight individuals – a few months ago over harassment concerns.
Reddit’s admins shared a blog post explaining that the ban was a way to promote ideas as well as protect people. “We’re making another change that we believe will help make Reddit a better place for everyone.”
Reddit’s interim CEO Ellen Pao is not new to the spotlight. In March, Kleiner Perkins won a gender bias case against Pao. In 2012, Pao sued the prominent venture capital firm, claiming she was passed over for a promotion and that she ultimately lost her job when she claimed discrimination over the move.
An online petition on Change.org, which started about three weeks ago, is calling for Pao to step down from her leadership position. More than 17,000 people have signed the petition, putting it within 7,000 signatures of its goal.
For the past five years, Reddit has grown its user-base, allowing people to share interesting news, photos and stories on the site while also providing opportunities for them to interact with notable people. Reddit is one of the highest visited sites on the Internet, garnering more than 160 million visitors a month.
In 2011, the site served up to a billion pages to about 14 million unique visitors, according to Google Analytics.