More than 130,000 people have signed a petition demanding the resignation of Ellen Pao, the Interim Chief Executive Officer of Reddit.
“Ellen K. Pao is a lawyer and the chief executive officer of the Internet company Reddit Inc. After Pao lost her gender discrimination case against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins she was appointed CEO of Reddit Inc and Reddit entered into a new age of censorship,” the petition reads. “A vast majority of the Reddit community believes that Pao, “a manipulative individual who will sue her way to the top”, has overstepped her boundaries and fears that she will run Reddit into the ground. Alternative sites to Reddit.com have sprung up and have received vast amounts of traffic within the recent months.”
“Action must be taken to prevent Reddit from being further run into the ground.”
Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
Following Pao’s appointment as CEO, users have become increasingly concerned with what they refer to as censorship occurring at Reddit.
In June of this year, subreddits that were deemed “offensive” were banned on the popular website. Many “fat-shaming” communities were targeted, with innocent bystanders catching flack as well – /r/whalewatching was banned, for example, despite the fact that it was for the discussion of watching actual whales. In addition to the bannings many posts have been removed, including one that discussed female on male sexual assault – the reason being that it was considered “tabloid news.”
The petition, which launched three weeks ago, quickly garnered 10,000 signatures. It was not until recent events at Reddit, however, that people began voicing their agreement with Pao’s removal at an accelerated rate.
Earlier this week, the hashtag #RedditRevolt began trending worldwide following the abrupt and unexplained firing of a beloved employee, Victoria Taylor. Some of the site’s most high traffic communities went on lockdown, turning their pages to private in both protest of Taylor’s firing and solidarity in demanding better moderation tools and communication between moderators and Reddit administrators. Popular subreddits such as /r/gaming, /r/history, and /r/science were joined by more than 1,000 other communities at varied times at the moderators’ discretion. The majority of all moderators work entirely as volunteers and voiced concerns with the “archaic” tools available to them, often needing to use browser extensions in order to compensate.
“If you are going to censor the website to make it more advertiser friendly, then so be it,” one supporter of the petition wrote. “That being said, the fact you would go about it under the guise of ‘making the website a safe environment’ is insulting to everyone who has used the website. You want money, that’s fine and I get it. Just don’t lie to our faces about it.“
“It is easy to dismiss the Reddit userbase with, ‘Who cares what a bunch of hate-filled, misogynistic, 20-something guys think.’ But the fact is that we are not all 20-something guys, and the other important fact is that we should all care, because if everyone does not have free speech, no one does,” one woman said. “You can always choose not to view content you don’t agree with. Silencing a voice is never the right answer, and neither is refusing to engage in open dialogue.”
The most frequent complaints in the comment section for the petition center around Pao’s lack of credentials and censorship. Several comments also cite an unconfirmed rumor that Pao fired an employee with leukemia. The alleged former employee posted the accusation to /r/Iama, but has since deleted his claim and is refusing to discuss the situation. Heather Wilson, a representative from Reddit, has stated that the claim “is untrue. That never happened.”
Pao addressed the Victoria Taylor incident briefly with TIME. “I want to apologize to our community for yesterday,” she told TIME on Friday. “We handled the transition in a way that caused some disruption, and we should have done a better job.”
Pao is best known for her failed gender discrimination case against Kleiner Perkins.
Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.
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