Reddit CEO Ellen Pao quits amid user revolt

Resignation comes after AMA co-ordinator's dismissal sparked 'AMAgeddon'

Reddit's first woman CEO, Ellen Pao, has quit the social forum by mutual consent following a user revolt sparked by the sacking of the site's talent director.

Ask Me Anything co-ordinator Victoria Taylor's dismissal led to a rebellion on the community website in which moderators and members decided to pull vast sections of the site offline in protest.

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But Pao, who was also the subject of a 213,500-signature petition calling for her departure following the sacking, denied this was the catalyst for her resignation.

In her resignation letter, she said: "Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit's core principles."

She added: "In my eight months as reddit's CEO, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly on reddit. The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity."

A highlight in Pao's tenure has been her clampdown on trolls, shutting down five forums going by names likes r/fatpeoplehate and r/transfags.

Reddit founder and former CEO, Steve Huffman, will replace Pao by returning to the role, and will continue to crak down on trolls, said board member Sam Altman in a blog post.

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"We're very happy to have Steve back. Product and community are the two legs of reddit, and the board was very focused on finding a candidate who excels at both (truthfully, community is harder), which Steve does," wrote Altman. "He has the added bonus of being a founder with ten years of reddit history in his head." 

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He added: "We are thankful for Ellen's many contributions to reddit and the technology industry generally. She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth. She brought a face to reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry.

"it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. [1] The reduction in compassion that happens when we're all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you."

Pao will remain as an advisor to the board to the end of 2015.

Taylor, the ex-AMA co-ordinator, released a statement following her departure, saying: "I'll never forget my time at reddit. You allowed me to be a part of some of the greatest conversations of our time, and it was an honor to be your ambassador. I just want to take a moment to say thank you to all of you who have reached out."

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She also praised the community activism displayed by the protests, saying: "I've been incredibly humbled and honored to serve this community, and I truly believe all voices matter. Your voices matter. You proved that this weekend."

It's still unclear why she was initially let go, and whether or not she was offered her old position back, but it seems unlikely that Taylor will be returning to Reddit.

She stated: "I know many of you may be curious about what's next for me, and I'm still figuring that out. However, I can assure you, wherever the road leads, I will live up to the faith you've had in me."

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Her statement to Reddit follows CEO Ellen Pao's, who attempted to placate Reddit with an apology, amidst community outrage and a petition for her to step down as CEO

CEO Ellen Pao said in a statement: "Our community is what makes Reddit, Reddit and we let you down yesterday. I want to apologise for how we handled the transition yesterday. We should have informed the moderators earlier and provided more detail on the transition plan."

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Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian added in a post to moderators: "Your message was received loud and clear. The communication between Reddit and the moderators needs to improve dramatically.

"We will work closely with you all going forward to ensure events like today don't happen again. At this point, however, the blackout has served its purpose, and now it's time to get Reddit functioning again. I know many of you are still upset. We will continue to work through these issues with you all, but redditors don't deserve to be punished any further over an issue that is ultimately between Reddit and the moderators."

Taylor was responsible for the organisation of Reddit's Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions, the eclectic Q&As the site has become famous for.

Her unexpected termination earlier this month sparked a huge community backlash, with moderators unable to orchestrate upcoming AMAs.

Many moderators set their respective sub-Reddits to private out of solidarity for Taylor, shutting down huge swathes of the site in the process.

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In total, up to 100 sub-Reddits went dark at the end of last week as part of a protest that's become known as AMAgeddon.

Reddit user Karmanaut, one of the top moderators for the /r/IamA subreddit (that hosts the majority of AMAs), has been a vocal critic of the company's decision.

"For /r/IAMA to work the way it currently does, we need Victoria. Without her, we need to figure out a different way for it to work," said Karmanaut.

The subreddit has now been set to private, ostensibly so moderators could figure out how to organise forthcoming AMAs without Taylor.

"We have been really blindsided by all of this," Karmanaut said. "As a result, we will need to go through our processes and see what can be done without her."

For the majority of moderators, AMAgeddon was about protesting not just Taylor's termination, but also what they perceive as a lack of communication and support from the admins that run Reddit itself.

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User MockDeath, one of the mods for /r/rAskScience, was also vocal about the resentment some members of the community feel towards admins. "This is an issue that has been chronically inadequate for moderators of large subreddits reaching out to the admins over the years.

"Reddit is a great site with an even more amazing community, however it is frustrating to volunteer time to run a large subreddit and have questions go unacknowledged by the people running the site."

The majority of sub-Reddits have now resumed normal operation following the protest's conclusion.

This story was originally written on 03/07/15 , but has been subsequently updated (most recently on 13/07/15)  to reflect the latest information.

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