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The sexist harassment campaign against Reddit CEO Ellen Pao

After a controversial ban, redditors have united around a common enemy.


Marisa Kabas


Wednesday afternoon Reddit banned five controversial subreddits that were responsible for some of the worst material on the social news site. Now the people up in arms about the loss of their hateful communities have rallied around a common target: Reddit CEO Ellen Pao.

The subreddits were banned for breaking the company’s rules regarding the harassment of individuals. “We’re banning behavior, not ideas,” the company noted in the announcement. 

A glance at r/all Wednesday night and early Thursday morning revealed line after line of vitriol being hurled at Reddit’s female CEO. Despite the fact that Wednesday’s announcement was signed by “Jessica (/u/5days), Ellen (/u/ekjp), Alexis (/u/kn0thing) & the rest of team reddit,” Pao has been bearing the brunt of the decision.

In addition to the countless posts calling her a “c*nt” and pairing her name with swastikas, some redditors have shared photos of her with a thicker body as revenge for the banned fat-shaming subreddit, r/fatpeoplehate, which is—sadly—exactly what it sounds like.  


Trolls have also been spamming particularly vitriolic threads with upvotes—Reddit’s internal system for approving content—so that they show up on the main r/all page. 

A petition calling for Pao’s removal is currently gathering steam. The petition was actually started two weeks ago, but as of midnight, it only had 600 supporters. By Thursday morning, it had surpassed its initial goal of 5,000 signatures and upped the goal to 7,500.

The petition was started by Chris Warden, who generally objected to Pao because she “is bad at her job at reddit.” 

The comments on the petition show just how acutely Pao is being targeted and blamed for Reddit’s new approach to harassment. One supporter wrote: “Enough is enough. You’ve been figured out, Ellen. You are not welcome on your own site, doesn’t that tell you something?” Another added, “She has violated our right to freedom of speech and undermined the basic idea of reddit as an open forum for all.”

Pao is no stranger to controversy. Back in March, she lost a high-profile gender discrimination case against Silicon Valley venture capitalist firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Despite the fact that is was a very public loss, she had support from her current employer and thanked “the team and board @reddit for standing by me.”

Reddit has not yet responded to the Daily Dot’s request for more information on how exactly they plan on standing by Pao.  

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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