Alexis Ohanian did something last week that was fairly unprecedented in the world of business. He resigned from the board of Reddit, the company he co-founded, so a Black candidate could take his place.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman promised to honor Ohanian’s request and, on Wednesday, the company announced its new board member: Michael Seibel.
Seibel, a partner at Y Combinator, runs the company’s startup accelerator program—Reddit itself was funded by Y Combinator in 2005. Seibel co-founded the livestreaming company Justin.tv, later subsumed by Twitch, as well as the social video app Socialcam.
“I want to thank Steve, Alexis and the entire Reddit board for this opportunity,” Seibel said in a statement. “I’ve known Steve and Alexis since 2007 and have been a Reddit user ever since. Over this period of time, I’ve watched Reddit become part of the core fabric of the internet and I’m excited to help provide advice and guidance as Reddit continues to grow and tackle the challenges of bringing community and belonging to a broader audience.”
Huffman called Seibel “one of the smartest and kindest people in tech” and said few people “know the challenges and opportunities we face” like he does.
Reddit has recently come under fire from a coalition of disgruntled users, as well as former CEO Ellen Pao, over the platform’s lax policies on hate speech and racism. Huffman said in an announcement that management was working with moderators to “change our content policy to explicitly address hate” in the coming weeks.
Social media platforms’ policies regarding hate speech—from world leaders and average users alike—has been under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after Twitter and Facebook announced diverging decisions on how to handle President Donald Trump’s now-infamous “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” post. The controversial post, which many called racist and clearly inciting violence, came as protesters took to the streets demanding justice after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis two weeks ago.
Seibel recently signed on to Black Tech for Black Lives, a call to action from a coalition of Black tech leaders. “Tech is complicit,” the coalition said. “We as Black people in tech have a unique position and opportunity to respond to violence against Black people’s bodies. While we’re proximate to the pain, we largely avoid its most brutal physical outcomes. But we, too, feel the blows. We carry the scars on our psyches and hearts as our voices go largely unheard in the workplace and beyond.”
One of the five pledge demands addresses representation.
“I commit to doing everything I can to ensure proportional representation in my hiring of Black employees and/or funding of Black entrepreneurs,” the pledge states.
Seibel, who lives in San Francisco, will start the new role on Wednesday.