Reddit CEO remains unfazed by blackout protests, calls organizing moderators ‘landed gentry’


This week saw a pretty significant lashing out from the vast majority of Reddit, as multiple subreddits, including several that serve MMORPG communities, went completely dark as part of a protest of Reddit’s cost hike for API data access, which would run most third-party apps out of business. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if the movement has changed the mind of Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, who instead has elected to hurl insults instead.

In an interview with NBC News, Huffman compared the moderators who were taking down subreddits to “landed gentry” and stated plans for a more “democratic” system that would allow Reddit users to vote out moderators who have overseen the protest, arguing that those who engage in such protests would be more closely representing their communities with this change.

“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.”

There’s no such timeline for these mod removal policies to go into effect, as Huffman believes most subreddits will end their blackout voluntarily first. And he might be right: At the time of this writing, a little over half of Reddit is still dark, including r/WoW and r/GuildWars2, while other MMORPG subs like r/MMORPG and r/SWOTR are back online.

Meanwhile, Huffman has told NPR that the protests didn’t cost the company much money but did start “a fair amount of trouble.” Huffman also says that the company is in negotiations with several third-party apps, though negotiations with a couple of third-party apps – namely Apollo and Rif is Fun – have broken down.

Ultimately, Huffman claims that most users and moderators use the official Reddit app anyway, which makes selling ad space on the platform vital to keep the company sustainable. “Reddit represents one of the largest data sets of just human beings talking about interesting things,” Huffman said. “We are not in the business of giving that away for free. […] We’re 18 years old. I think it’s time we grow up and behave like an adult company.”

Even so, there are still calls to keep the pressure on, stating that any concessions earned are not enough, while many mods argue that they’re effectively providing free labor to Reddit and so they should have a larger say.

Least we forget, moderators are just as affected by the protests as anyone else. “I feel a bit between three fires,” Protobear, one of r/MMORPG’s head mods, said in our own comments section. “I have people yelling at me because how dare I be the shittiest most powertripping mod for doing this and that I don’t deserve r/mmorpg. […] There were so many ways Reddit could have handled this.” We note that while the MMORPG subreddit is back online, it’s not because it doesn’t support the protest but because organizers didn’t want to renege on genre event agreements and planned highlights.

A few more notes from the latest Verge piece: Reddit appears to be threatening moderators of closed subs directly by trying to sow discord among mod teams, which does not look like the actions of a Reddit C-suite that is supposedly airily unconcerned with the blackout. Moreover, The Verge reports that 4000 subs are still closed in protest, which is almost half of the ones that went dark, putting the lie to the idea that almost everything had already opened back up. Good luck on that fool’s quest to try to replace thousands of mods for all these subs all at once!
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