Reddit CEO apologizes for ‘long history of mistakes’

Reddit CEO Ellen Pao on Monday apologized to the Reddit community for controversial management decisions that led over 200 major subreddits to temporarily shut their doors.

The social news-sharing site erupted in protests after Pao’s team summarily fired Victoria Taylor, the site’s communications director and the organizer of its popular Ask Me Anything Q&A series.

In her apology post, Pao acknowledged site administrators’ previous missteps in addition to touching on the controversy over Taylor’s departure.

“We screwed up,” she wrote. “Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them.”

The moderators of over 200 large subreddits, including the massively popular r/technology, locked out users and took their communities private to show their support for Taylor. Many of theses subreddits are now public again, but redditors’ anger has not died down. Over 180,000 people have signed a petition calling for Pao’s resignation.

“We all had the rug ripped out from under us and feel betrayed,” Karmanaut, one of the AMA subreddit’s moderators, wrote after the news broke.

On Friday, Pao told the New York Times that she was “sorry we let our community down” in handling Taylor’s firing.

“We should have informed our community moderators about the transition and worked through it with them,” she said.

Pao’s decision to speak to major media outlets before issuing a statement on her own platform angered many longtime users who have seen multiple leadership changes and policy shifts at the 10-year-old site.

“Why did you go on to give detailed statements to thirdparty [sic] newsfeeds first, before speaking to us?” redditor desmunda1 wrote in a comment that has received over 6,300 upvotes.

Pao promised “three concrete steps” to appease redditors in her Monday apology.

Reddit will work with its moderators to create new tools that will let them better manage their subreddits. Kristine “krispykrackers” Fasnacht, a longtime Reddit community manager, is “trying out” a new role, “Moderator Advocate,” to give subreddit owners a voice in high-level discussions. And Reddit is also letting moderators switch back to the old version of the site’s search tool, after the new version interrupted some of the standard processes they used to manage their communities.

“I know these are just words, and it may be hard for you to believe us,” Pao said. “I don’t have all the answers, and it will take time for us to deliver concrete results.”

“I know we’ve drifted out of touch with the community as we’ve grown and added more people, and we want to connect more,” she continued. “I and the team are committed to talking more often with the community, starting now.”

Photo via Christopher Michel/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

William Turton

William Turton

Once named one of Forbes’ 20 Under 20 and hired as a staff writer for the Daily Dot when he was still a senior in high school, William Turton is a rising tech reporter focusing on information security, hacking culture, and politics. Since leaving the Daily Dot in April 2016, his work has appeared on Gizmodo, the Outline, and Vice News Tonight on HBO.