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The Reddit blackout is already forcing unexpected changes

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

On July 2, 2015, Reddit went dark for a day in protest of the firing of Victoria Taylor, a popular employee who had been instrumental in the site's popular "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) feature.


The blackout was a watershed moment for the site, and it had unexpected consequences. This blog post will explore three of the most significant changes that resulted from the Reddit blackout.


With some subreddits protesting indefinitely, Reddit could shake up its policy for moderators.


The Rise of Alternative Platforms


One of the most significant changes to come out of the Reddit blackout was the rise of alternative platforms.


During the blackout, many Redditors flocked to other sites and services that offered similar features. Some of these platforms, such as Voat and Snapzu, saw a surge in traffic and new users.


These alternative platforms offered an opportunity for Redditors to continue the conversations and communities that they had built on Reddit, but without the censorship and management problems that had driven them away.


From NBC


One change that is “really important,” he said, “is making sure that, for example, the protests, now or in the future, are actually representative of their communities. And I think that may have been the case for many at the beginning of this week, but that’s less and less the case as time goes on.

Huffman, also a Reddit co-founder, said he plans to pursue changes to Reddit’s moderator removal policy to allow ordinary users to vote moderators out more easily if their decisions aren’t popular. He said the new system would be more democratic and allow a wider set of people to hold moderators accountable.

Increased Transparency and Communication



The Reddit blackout also forced the site's management to become more transparent and communicative with its users. In the aftermath of the blackout, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao addressed the community, acknowledging the site's shortcomings and promising to make changes.


While the initial 48-hour blackout period has passed, the protest is far from over. Thousands of subreddits remain private or restricted.


These include the massively popular r/funny, which has more than 40 million subscribers, as well as r/aww, r/Music and others with tens of millions of subscribers. Many of these subreddits’ moderators say they plan to continue their protests indefinitely.


The site also implemented a new policy of regular "town hall" meetings with moderators and community members, where they could voice their concerns and offer suggestions for improvement.


These changes helped to rebuild trust between Reddit's management and its users, and they have led to a more collaborative and communicative relationship.


The Power of Collective Action


Finally, the Reddit blackout demonstrated the power of collective action and the ability of users to effect change.


In the short term, massive Reddit communities going dark don’t just affect Redditors. It also has an outsize impact on search results because so many people rely on the collective advice, conversations, and shared knowledge of the discussions that are central to the platform.


As many have pointed out, one of the biggest immediate impacts of the blackout was not a vastly different front page, but search results that lead to dead ends rather than answers.


The blackout was initiated by a group of moderators who were frustrated with the lack of communication and support from Reddit's management.


However, it quickly gained momentum and support from the wider community.


The blackout was ultimately successful in forcing Reddit's management to address the concerns of its users and make changes to the site.


This example shows that even in large, complex systems like Reddit, collective action can be an effective tool for change.


Conclusion


The Reddit blackout was a significant moment in the site's history, and it had far-reaching consequences.


The rise of alternative platforms, increased transparency and communication, and the power of collective action are just a few of the unexpected changes that resulted from the protest.


While the blackout was a challenging time for Reddit and its users, it ultimately resulted in a stronger, more resilient community.


All of this could ultimately leave Reddit in a much different place than it was before the blackout.


As Rory Mir, the associate director of community organizing for digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, recently wrote, Reddit seems to be following a familiar pattern.


“What we see time and time again, though, is that when a platform turns its back on the community, it doesn’t end well,” Mir said. “They’ll revolt and they’ll flee, and the platform will be left trying to squeeze dwindling profits from a colossal wreck.”


Update, June 16th, 2023, 9:00 AM PT: This story has been updated with comments from a Reddit spokesperson about the company's moderator removal policy.

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Guest
Jun 19, 2023

Reddit is proving to the rest of the world, the vast majority who never use or post there, that it is just as bad as we thought. Relying on volunteer moderators, amazing gall! I read the Verge’s link to Reddit’s mod conversations — the mods are forced to put up with worse abuse than anyone used to get on Twitter. Reddit has a reputation for being the armpit of the internet, for allowing the worst people to get encouragement from other terrible people.

Let’s hope for humanity’s sake there is a mass exodus to Discord, other forums, or outside to play in the grass.

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Guest
Jun 19, 2023

I think most people would agree with you… and also that consumers should have the right to not indulge in a product whose policies they view as anti-consumer and devalue the very product they are providing.


I agree entirely Reddit needs to figure out how to be profitable. But they seem to be screwing this business move up very badly and will lose a lot of potential partners.

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