Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the platform’s board of directors today and urged the company to fill his seat with a Black candidate.
Ohanian revealed his decision in a series of tweets and said, “It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family and for my country. I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks, ‘What did you do?’”
He added that he will use any future gains from his holdings in Reddit to serve the Black community and curb racial hate, starting with a donation of $1 million to Know Your Rights Camp, led by civil rights activist and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman responded to Ohanian’s decision in a company announcement regarding changes to the company’s content policy that Ohanian’s request for a Black candidate to take his place on the board would be honored.
Huffman also acknowledged that Reddit users and moderators do not currently have enough clarity on the platform’s stance on racism. “Our moderators are frustrated and need a real seat at the table to help shape the policies that they help us enforce,” he said.
Ohanian’s move continues what has been a week of turmoil at Reddit.
Earlier this week, former CEO Ellen Pao was critical of a letter Huffman wrote to all Reddit employees regarding the racial unrest and demonstrations occurring across the country.
Pao cited Reddit’s decision to not shut down subreddit the_donald, while the company pointed out that its content was placed behind a quarantine screen last July for “significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of Reddit’s rules against violence and other aspects of the content policy,” adding that further measures were put in place to keep posts from the_donald from interfering with other areas on the site.
Huffman addressed the_donald in his company announcement and admitted the confusion that ensued in 2018 when he said that while racism wasn’t welcome on Reddit, it wasn’t against the rules.
“This inconsistency has hurt our trust with our users and moderators and has made us slow to respond to problems,” he said. “Clearly, we should have quarantined [the_donald] sooner.”
Huffman said that Reddit’s current content policy basically boils down to nine rules for what people are not allowed to do on the platform, but it “lists only what you cannot do, articulates none of the values behind the rules and does not explicitly take a stance on hate or racism.”
He pledged to update the policy to add a vision for the platform, a statement on hate, context behind the rules and “a principle that Reddit isn’t to be used as a weapon,” adding that with more engagement from moderators, “the timeline is weeks, not months.”
Looking ahead to how Reddit will address racism on its platform in the future, Huffman said the company has to “turn a mirror” on itself “and be willing to do the hard work of making sure we are living up to our values in our product and policies.”
“This is a significant moment,” he said. “We have a choice: Return to the status quo, or use this opportunity for change. We at Reddit are opting for the latter, and we will do our very best to be a part of the progress.”