In a recent interview with NBC, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman expressed his concerns about the level of power held by the site’s moderators. He stated his intention to revise the rules to allow users to vote out moderators of subreddits.
Huffman described the current system as undemocratic, as it allows moderators to be removed only by themselves, higher-ranking moderators, or the Reddit administration. He compared this structure to a “landed gentry,” implying that it creates an imbalance of power.
As part of his efforts to address this issue, Huffman plans to implement changes that would grant users a more significant say in the moderation process. By allowing users to participate in voting out moderators, the aim is to promote a more democratic and inclusive environment on the platform.
He told NBC, “If you’re a politician or a business owner, you are accountable to your constituents. So a politician needs to be elected, and a business owner can be fired by its shareholders. And I think, on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic.”
The API Pricing Policy of Reddit and Subreddit Blackout
In response to Reddit’s new pricing policy, which involved charging for its application-programming interface (API), nearly 3,500 subreddits organized a 48-hour blackout as a protest. Before the change, the API was available for third-party apps at no cost.
One notable example is the iOS app Apollo, which has been utilizing Reddit’s API for eight years. The app’s developer, Christian Selig, estimated that complying with the new pricing guidelines would require an investment of $20 million. Consequently, Selig announced that Apollo would shut down on June 30 due to the financial burden.
Selig expressed his disbelief at the pricing structure, deeming it disconnected from reality and unreasonably high. He emphasized his inability to afford such an excessive amount or even have the means to charge it to a credit card.
The significant influence held by Reddit moderators is often attributed to the extensive unpaid work they contribute to the site. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Northwestern University estimated that the cumulative hours worked by Reddit moderators in 2020 had a value of $3.4 million.
Huffman appeared unconcerned despite the potential for further protests resulting from another rule change. In an interview with NBC, he emphasized the importance of ensuring that protests truly represented the communities involved, both presently and in the future. Huffman suggested that initial support for moderators may diminish over time, indicating a possible shift in sentiment.
Subreddits Remain Inaccessible, and Moderators Express Dissatisfaction
While the majority of subreddits, approximately 80%, have become accessible again, several prominent ones, such as r/aww, r/videos, and r/AskHistorians, remain inaccessible. In a recent post titled “The Fight Continues,” the moderators expressed dissatisfaction, stating that their core concerns have not been adequately addressed.
According to the organizers, Reddit’s response has been minimal, and they believe that the company is attempting to wait out the situation. In an internal memo reported by The Verge earlier this week, Huffman cautioned employees against wearing Reddit-branded clothing in public, acknowledging the discontent among users and the potential for employee backlash.
Huffman acknowledged the situation’s intensity, referring to it as one of the noisiest blowups witnessed on Reddit. However, he assured that Reddit teams were actively working on resolving the issues, emphasizing that, like previous incidents, this would eventually subside.
Regarding the proposed changes, Huffman indicated no specific timeline was in place. He clarified that he did not intend to pay Reddit staff to take on a more involved role in subreddit moderation.