We just spoke to Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and he’s not backing down. He seems to think third-party apps were a mistake. But Reddit is also pledging that it will respect the subreddit blackout where thousands of subreddits are currently staying dark.
“We are not shutting down discussions or unilaterally reopening communities,” reads a line from a “Reddit API Fact Sheet” that the company shared with The Verge.
In our interview, Huffman told us that he sees Reddit as a “democratic living organism created by its users.”
“Every once in a while in cities, there’s a protest. And I think that’s what we’re seeing exactly right now. We, even in disagreement, we appreciate that users can care enough to protest on Reddit can protest on Reddit and then our platform is really resilient enough to survive these things,” he told my colleague Jay Peters.
“Dissent, debate, and discussions are foundational parts of Reddit. We respect our communities’ ability to protest as long as mods follow our Moderator Code of Conduct,” reads another part of the fact sheet.
Paging through various subreddit threads ahead of the blackout, it was pretty common to find Redditors suggesting Huffman would simply purge the moderators from its most popular subreddits and force them back open. There were even allegations that it had already happened to r/AdviceAnimals and r/tumblr, but it isn’t clear to me whether that’s just the typical moderator drama that happens on Reddit from time to time.
Reddit does now say, however, that it can eject moderators who are inactive and that “we step in to rearrange mod teams, so active mods are empowered to make decisions for their community.” The pro-blackout r/AdviceAnimals moderator who was ejected was accused by their fellow mod of being inactive for a year.
And theoretically, the mod ejection rule could serve as a pretext to force open a subreddit, by replacing mods with new ones who don’t want to protest. “If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users. If there is no consensus, but at least one mod who wants to keep the community going, we will respect their decisions and remove those who no longer want to moderate from the mod team,” its new Mod Code of Conduct post reads.
While many subreddits are still dark, Reddit writes that over 80 percent of its top 5,000 communities (by daily active users) are open, “and we expect this to continue.”
We’ll have more from our interview with Huffman soon.
Update, 7:31PM ET: Added that the mod code of conduct rule could serve as a pretext to force open a subreddit.