Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced Friday that he would resign from his board seat and urged the company to replace him with a candidate who is black. Shortly thereafter, in a thread on the site, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman confirmed that the company will move forward with Ohanian’s request.
“Alexis Ohanian (), my Reddit cofounder, announced that he is resigning from our board and that he wishes for his seat to be filled with a black candidate, a request that the board and I will honor,” Huffman, known on the site as spez, wrote. “We thank Alexis for this meaningful gesture and all that he’s done for us over the years.”
While it’s unclear how quickly the company plans to fill this seat, Huffman went on to note that, even beyond this initiative, Reddit has more work to do.
“As Reddit has grown, alongside much good, it is facing its own challenges around hate and racism,” Huffman wrote. “We have to acknowledge and accept responsibility for the role we have played.”
Huffman said the company will focus on the parts of Reddit that “reflect an unflattering but real resemblance to the world in the hate that black users and communities see daily.” Huffman added that the company would provide more clarity to users and moderators on where its administrators stand when it comes to racism, offering moderators a seat at the table to help shape corporate policies.
Huffman reflected on Reddit’s history regarding its policies on racism, highlighting where the company has made progress and where it’s fallen short.
He specifically called out Reddit’s failure to take action on The_Donald, a pro-Trump subreddit that became a breeding ground for violent content.
This comes only a few days after Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit in 2014, criticized Huffman’s open letter to employees, in which he made it clear the company doesn’t tolerate “hate, racism, and violence,” noting that its “values are clear.”
“I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence,” Pao said Monday on Twitter, adding, “So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long.”
In his posted response today, Huffman copped to Pao’s criticism and admitted that The_Donald was “a community that relished in exploiting and detracting from the best of Reddit and that is now nearly disintegrated.” He also said the company should’ve “quarantined it sooner.”
So, while it hasn’t been banned or shutdown, the “quarantine” effectively prevents users from accidentally viewing its content. Users will only be able to enter the subreddit with a verified email address after opting-in.
Regardless, Huffman made it clear that this is a turning point for Reddit:
“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.”
Additionally, Huffman left the thread open for Reddit users to ask him any questions on the matter. At the time of writing, it’s amassed over 20,000 comments.
In the Q&A, he maps out a few things Reddit’s aiming to accomplish this year, including publicly sharing summaries of quarterly calls with moderators, expanding its number of councils, regularly cycling members so it can bring on more moderators, and creating a council on social justice issues (that will also host all-council calls on how the company’s policies are evolving).
So, if you’re active on Reddit, feel free to keep the conversation going.