Over the last several weeks Reddit has undergone some major changes — from the demise of /r/fatpeoplehate to the firing of Victoria Taylor (respectively dubbed “The Fattening” and “AMAgeddon”) to the eventual CEO change from Ellen Pao to Steve Huffman. It is no wonder Pao resigned, the backlash to her decisions was one of the most reactionary responses I’ve ever seen.
Pao faced criticism from the onset of her becoming CEO. Misinformation and speculation lead to accusations that she was a either a misogynist or a “feminazi.” Pao’s first misstep though, was to ban several subreddits known for harassment, the largest of which was /r/fatpeoplehate. Not only was /r/fatpeoplehate a horribly hateful place, but it was consistently making posts onto the front page of /r/all.
Pao accused the subreddits of harassing people in real life, and therefore violating Reddit’s policies, but she also mentioned that she wanted Reddit to become a safer space and more inclusive. The existence of /r/fatpeoplehate also cast a bad light on Reddit, poor news for publicity and therefore its investors. But Redditors felt their “free speech” was being quenched and that their rights had been taken from them! Reddit wasn’t supposed to be a “safe space”, only the horrid Social Justice Warriors use that term, and therefore Pao must be one of them, a feminazi!
Within weeks, Pao further enraged the Reddit populace with the firing of Victoria Taylor, the woman responsible for AMA coordination and a lot of Reddit administration to subreddit moderator communication, and no one set to take over her duties.
In an act of rebellion over 100 subreddits went private, preventing subscribers from seeing or posting content. Within 24 hours, Pao responded with an apology and a promise to improve moderator tools, but this could not quench Reddit’s rage. They demanded she resign.
To express their rage, Redditors decided to use class by posting memes” relating Pao to Hitler. During the weeks of AMAgeddon and The Fattening, Reddit exploded with posts calling Pao obese, a Nazi, sexually frustrated, and any number of insults revealing the underbelly of misogyny, bigotry, and immaturity rampant in Reddit’s ranks.
People spewed hateful comments towards Pao’s family and threatened Pao’s life. Though the hatred towards her was intense, she resigned gracefully the next week citing an inability to meet the Board of Director’s goals for user growth.
It has since turned out that Pao was not responsible for the firing of Taylor, and had in fact defended Reddit’s right to free speech to the board of directors who do not support hate speech. In this ironic turn of events, Reddit’s immature vitriol has only served to accelerate its path towards becoming a safe space, many Redditors’ worst nightmare. Now that’s what I call justice porn.