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Reddit chief resigns with a swipe at the trolls

Barry Collins
13 Jul 2015
Reddit
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Reddit co-founder returns as CEO as Ellen Pao bows out

Ellen Pao's brief, tumultuous reign as the CEO of Reddit came to an end over the weekend, with the outgoing boss issuing one last rebuke for her most vociferous critics. She will be replaced by Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, who's already building bridges with the site's disgruntled userbase.

The Reddit community was in outright mutiny earlier this month, when it was announced that the company had sacked Victoria Taylor, the employee who had been tasked with managing the site's popular Ask Me Anything sessions and liaising with the site's volunteer moderators. Many of the site's most popular subredits were locked down in protest, effectively crippling the site for a day or so. 

The protest was seemingly the tipping point for Pao, who has clashed with the eclectic Reddit userbase on several occasions. "In my eight months as reddit’s CEO, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on reddit," she wrote on her resignation thread. "The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity."

Pao, who had been subject to death threats in the wake of Taylor's sacking, said the positive feedback she had received from site members far outweighed the hate, but left with a message to her critics. "I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings," she wrote. "Everyone attacked on reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said. Also because it undercuts the authenticity of reddit and shakes our faith in humanity."

Pao insisted she was not resigning because of the trolls, but because "the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit’s core principles".

Familiar face

In her place comes Steve Huffman, the 31-year-old co-founder of the site, who left Reddit following its purchase by Conde Nast to set up the travel website Hipmunk. He's already promising to review some of the decisions that have been made in recent months, most notably some of the abuse policy changes which many Reddit users regarded as a infringement of free speech. 

However, Huffman insists he won't be reinstating Taylor. "She was well-loved by many moderators, and I'm very sorry at how everything played out. It could have been handled much better," Huffman wrote in an Ask Me Anything thread on the site. "However, she was let go for specific reasons, which I obviously will not share, and we will stand by that decision."

Huffman also insists Pao isn't being hung out to dry by the site's owners. "Ellen was not used as a scapegoat," he wrote. "She stepped up during a time of crisis for reddit, for which we were thankful. Things didn't go smoothly, for sure, but I will do my best to guide us forward. That process will see Huffman "reconsider all our policies from first principles".

"I don't know all of the changes that were made under Ellen's tenure. I'm mostly still getting to know everyone here," he added. 

Despite its recent turmoil, Reddit remains one of the most visited sites on the internet, recording 145 million page views from 16.3 million unique visitors last month, according to the site's own stats.   

 

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