How the tides have turned. In the very messy aftermath of Ellen Pao’s departure (followed by Bethanye Blount’s resignation and what seems like a whole lot of chaos), there is now a petition circulating Change.org calling for the reinstatement of Pao as reddit’s CEO. The messaging is simple: “Action must be taken to prevent reddit from being further run into the ground,” the petition reads, “Bring back Ellen Pao.” Started five days ago, the petition hasn’t garnered that much support yet (as of press time, there were 307 supporters), but let us not forget that the original petition calling for her firing was also slow to take off.
Pao’s decision to leave reddit has met with mixed reactions — while some users have celebrated the move, others are clearly disturbed by the amount of internal shifting that has taken place over the course of the last few days. And even though Pao was initially lambasted for cracking down on “free speech” on reddit, some are now heralding the ex-CEO as the last defender of the reddit radicals. According to Pao’s predecessor as CEO, Yishan Wong, the ousted leader was actually a fierce defender of public expression on the site. In a reddit post of his own, Wong wrote, “T]he most delicious part of this is that on at least two separate occasions, the board pressed /u/ekjp [Ellen Pao] to outright ban ALL the hate subreddits in a sweeping purge. She resisted, knowing the community, claiming it would be a shitshow. Ellen isn’t some “evil, manipulative, out-of-touch incompetent she-devil” as was often depicted. She was approved by the board and recommended by me because when I left, she was the only technology executive anywhere who had the chops and experience to manage a startup of this size, AND who understood what reddit was all about.”
Wong continued, “Ellen was more or less inclined to continue upholding my free-speech policies. /r/fatpeoplehate was banned for inciting off-site harassment, not discussing fat-shaming. What all the white-power racist-sexist neckbeards don’t understand is that with her at the head of the company, the company would be immune to accusations of promoting sexism and racism: she is literally Silicon Valley’s #1 Feminist Hero, so any “SJWs” [social justice warriors] would have a hard time attacking the company for intentionally creating a bastion (heh) of sexist/racist content. She probably would have tolerated your existence so long as you didn’t cause any problems — I know that her long-term strategies were to find ways to surface and publicize reddit’s good parts — allowing the bad parts to exist but keeping them out of the spotlight.”
With reddit’s tumultuous past (and doubtless, future), there’s no telling what is next for the company. But for now, it seems that Pao is content to just sit back on reddit, relax, and enjoy the show.