Reddit CEO Plans to Make Moderator Selection More Democratic
In a recent NBC interview, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman revealed plans to change the platform’s rules, allowing users to vote out subreddit moderators. Huffman criticized the current system, which only allows moderators to be removed by themselves, higher-ranking mods, or Reddit itself, as “not democratic” and likened it to a “landed gentry.”
Huffman argued that, much like politicians and business owners, subreddit moderators should be held accountable by their constituents. “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,” he explained.
This announcement follows a 48-hour blackout, in which nearly 3,500 subreddits took part on Monday and Tuesday to protest Reddit’s new pricing policy. The platform has introduced charges for third-party apps using its application programming interface (API), which was previously free.
For instance, the iOS app Apollo, which has utilized the API for eight years, would now face a $20 million fee under the new guidelines. Apollo’s developer, Christian Selig, called the pricing “unreasonable” and announced the app’s closure on June 30, stating, “I don’t see how this pricing is anything based in reality or remotely reasonable… I don’t have that kind of money or would even know how to charge it to a credit card.”
Reddit mods wield significant power, often attributed to their countless hours of unpaid work. A study last year by researchers from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Northwestern University estimated that mods’ efforts in 2020 were valued at $3.4 million.
Huffman seemed unfazed by the possibility of more protests following another rule change. He told NBC that it’s “really important” to ensure “protests, now or in the future, are actually representative of their communities.”
“And I think that may have been the case for many at the beginning of this week, but that’s less and less the case as time goes on,” he said, implying that support for mods might be dwindling.
Although around 80% of subreddits are now accessible, some major ones like r/aww, r/videos, and r/AskHistorians remain locked. In a recent post titled “The Fight Continues,” they expressed that their “core concerns still aren’t satisfied.”
“Reddit has budged—microscopically,” the organizers wrote. “Reddit has been silent since it began, and internal memos indicate that they think they can wait us out.”
In an internal memo leaked to The Verge earlier this week, Huffman cautioned employees against wearing Reddit-branded clothing in public.
“Some folks are really upset, and we don’t want you to be the object of their frustrations,” he wrote.
“There’s a ton of buzz surrounding this one. It’s among the loudest we’ve encountered,” he added. “Rest assured, our teams are on top of it, and just like all Reddit explosions, this one will blow over too.”
Huffman informed NBC that there wasn’t a specific timeline for his proposed modifications. He also mentioned that he had no intentions of having paid Reddit employees take a more active role in subreddit moderation.
“What I’m proposing as a way out is actually increasing democracy,” he said. “We’re dealing with some outdated, legacy decisions regarding community management, and we need to gradually phase them out.”