Reddit Communities Still Dark As Protest Continues

Thousands of volunteer-run message boards on Reddit remained dark on Tuesday, a week after moderators of the communities began what they called a 48-hour protest against Reddit’s planned changes to its business model.

More than 3,200 message boards, known as subreddits, remained restricted or private, down from nearly 9,000 last week, according to a website tracking the revolt. Others were flooded with memes mocking Reddit’s chief executive, Steve Huffman, as anger continued to bubble on the site over changes to the company’s business model.

Moderators of some of the communities that reopened said they had done so after Reddit threatened to replace them.

“We want the best for this community and have no choice but to open it back up — or have it opened for us,” the moderators of the Apple enthusiast forum r/Apple wrote in a message in which they called on Mr. Huffman to resign.

Other communities reopened but chose to allow only GIFs, memes and pictures of the host of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” to be posted.

The moderators of r/pics, which has 30 million members, for example, took a poll on whether to “return to normal operations” or “only allow images of John Oliver looking sexy.” The Oliver option won decisively, with 37,331 votes to 2,329 for “return to normal.” Many of the memes that flooded the community derided Mr. Huffman.

Mr. Oliver encouraged the revolt, posting photos of himself in various get-ups — pink panda-print pajamas, a wizard’s hat with a purple cape — on Twitter, along with the message “Dear Reddit, excellent work. Attn: r/pics — have at it…”

The backlash erupted last week over changes that Reddit announced in April when it said it would begin to charge some large-scale companies for access to its application programming interface, or A.P.I., the method through which outside entities can download and process the social network’s vast selection of memes, GIFs, videos and conversation threads.

Reddit said it no longer wanted to give away such a valuable asset to companies like Google, OpenAI and Microsoft, which have been using its data to develop artificial intelligence systems.

But some Reddit users and developers said the pricing scheme would kill off popular third-party apps like Apollo, rif is fun for Reddit, ReddPlanet and Sync that people rely on to browse and comment on the site. Moderators said the changes could hurt some of the tools that they use to manage freewheeling discussions on the site.

Starting on June 12, many Reddit moderators made their communities “private,” or inaccessible to members, for at least 48 hours. Some users had trouble using the site that day; Reddit said that a “significant number of subreddits shifting to private caused some expected stability issues.”

A week later, many communities were still up in arms.

“You can see there are a lot of subreddits still holding on that have a lot of frustration over how the whole thing has been handled and the unwillingness of Reddit to really give an inch here,” Christian Selig, the developer of Apollo, an iOS app widely praised for its design and rich features, said in an interview on Tuesday.

Mr. Selig said he still planned to shut down the app on June 30, a day before he said he would begin to incur $20 million in annual charges under Reddit’s pricing plan.

Despite the turmoil, Mr. Huffman has indicated that Reddit, which is preparing for a possible initial public offering this year, will not change course.

He told NBC News last week that Reddit was considering allowing users to vote out moderators who led the protest, comparing them to “landed gentry” who were thwarting the site’s democratic ethos. An estimated 57 million people visit the platform each day.

“Protest and dissent is important,” Mr. Huffman told The Associated Press last week. “The problem with this one is it’s not going to change anything because we made a business decision that we’re not negotiating on.”

Tim Rathschmidt, a Reddit spokesman, said that, in his reference to “landed gentry,” Mr. Huffman was “talking about how users have been vocal about wanting their communities back open,” and that many moderators and users disagreed with the protest.

“In the future, we could look at developing a way for community members to vote out a mod if they disagree with decisions being made that impact the entire community,” Mr. Rathschmidt said in an email on Tuesday.

He said, however, that Reddit was not threatening to replace moderators. “That’s not how we operate,” Mr. Rathschmidt said. “Pressuring people is not our goal. We’re communicating expectations and how things work.”

Mr. Selig said that developers and moderators were not opposed to Reddit’s charging for access to its data. He said they had asked the company to consider charging less and offering more time before the new prices took effect.

Instead, company leaders “walled themselves off and said: ‘You don’t matter. We will just stick through this,’” Mr. Selig said. “And that’s where a lot of the frustration cuts through.”




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