#RedditRevolt Part 2: #TheDarkening

Part 2 of my piece on the #RedditRevolt movement and the resignation of Reddit Interim CEO Ellen Pao is up now on Al Jazeera America.  I argue that the uproar over the firing of Victoria Taylor was used as convenient cover for a group of users intent on hounding Pao off the site for her pro-feminist, anti-harassement policies.

A small sample:

The July 10 resignation of Ellen Pao, the beleaguered interim CEO of the social networking site Reddit, has a troubling subset of the site’s community cheering. It’s the group of users that has engaged in #RedditRevolt, a vitriolic harassment campaign to oust Pao that has been marked by sexist language and racist imagery — treatment that Reddit board member Sam Altman described as “sickening.” The validation of this harassment campaign is a blow for those seeking to increase inclusive democratic participation in virtual spaces.

In fact, the evidence is now coming out suggesting that Pao was set up to be the fall guy with regards to Taylor’s firing.

According to Gawker,

Ohanian left a comment seeming to take responsibility in a thread about Ellen’s “resignation,” just a day after the fact, and long after the community’s rancor was pointed entirely her way:

Ellen is a class act. I have gotten to know Ellen well as we’ve worked closely together over the past eight months and I’m impressed by her hard work and integrity as she’s strived to do what’s right for both reddit the company and reddit the community. I have admired her fearlessness and calm throughout our time together and look forward to following her impact on Silicon Valley and beyond. It was my decision to change how we work with AMAs and the transition was my failure and I hope we can keep moving forward from that lesson. Today was another step. I’m really excited to be working with Steve again and appreciate what Ellen did during her time here.

Ohanian also openly taunted moderators protesting Taylor’s firing (“Popcorn tastes good” he wrote, implying that he was enjoying watching their “salty” tantrum.  He later apologized for the comment) and yet almost none of the blowback over the #RedditRevolt landed on his shoulders.  When asked whether Ohanian should resign his position along with Pao, Reddit’s response was a resounding: meh.

meh 1

meh 2

As an Asian woman and an outspoken feminist, Pao entered her position at Reddit with two strikes against her in the eyes of many users.  In fact, Reddit’s former (she just left the site yesterday, saying that she didn’t feel she “could deliver on the promises being made to the community” in the wake of the recent controversies) Chief Engineer Bethanye McKinney Blount told The Next Web that she believes the Interim CEO was “placed on a ‘glass cliff’ — meaning that Pao was brought in at a time of crisis and set up for failure.”

Pao’s third strike was in instituting the anti-harassment policies that caused hateful subreddits like FatPeopleHate to be banned.  But the original #RedditRevolt (and their allies in #GamerGate) could not generate enough ground swell to push her out over that issue.  So when another Reddit admin aroused the anger of the community, they simply redirected it at Pao.

This is why I felt it was important to separate out #RedditRevolt from #TheDarkening.  The latter is a consumer protest about demanding transparency and improving the relationship between the corporate structure of the site and the volunteer moderators that make it run.  The former is a virtual mob looking to make the Internet a little less friendly to women and people of color.

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