After a petition calling for her resignation garnered nearly 200,000 signatures, Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is offering an abject apology for the series of grievances faithful Reddit users have leveled against her. In a Reddit post of her own, Pao acknowledged, “We screwed up.”
The public outrage and backlash against Pao began this past weekend, when Reddit abruptly cut ties with their director of talent, Victoria Taylor, who was responsible for moderating the online platform’s wildly popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) series. While the petition for Pao’s dismissal first appeared weeks before, accusing her of negatively affecting website traffic and censoring content, the movement gained momentum with Taylor’s departure from the company. The petition references Pao’s contentious gender discrimination lawsuit against former employers Kleiner Perkins, a well-known venture capital firm in Menlo Park, and accuses her of being “a manipulative individual who will sue her way to the top.”
Now, Pao is calling for clemency, writing that the company’s “screw-ups” did not just happen on “July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them. When you’ve had feedback or requests, we haven’t always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit.”
In a concerted effort to make actionable change, Pao continues her post with three concrete steps for improvement. She writes:
“Tools: We will improve tools, not just promise improvements, building on work already underway. u/deimorz andu/weffey will be working as a team with the moderators on what tools to build and then delivering them.
Communication: u/krispykrackers is trying out the new role of Moderator Advocate. She will be the contact for moderators with reddit and will help figure out the best way to talk more often. We’re also going to figure out the best way for more administrators, including myself, to talk more often with the whole community.
Search: We are providing an option for moderators to default to the old version of search to support your existing moderation workflows. Instructions for setting this default are here.”
Recognizing the cynicism and skepticism with which her post may be met, Pao notes, “I know these are just words, and it may be hard for you to believe us. I don’t have all the answers, and it will take time for us to deliver concrete results. I mean it when I say we screwed up, and we want to have a meaningful ongoing discussion. I know we’ve drifted out of touch with the community as we’ve grown and added more people, and we want to connect more. I and the team are committed to talking more often with the community, starting now.”
So in true Reddit style, engage in the community discussion that Pao has started. “Please share feedback here,” Pao concludes. “Our team is ready to respond to comments.”
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