A petition to fire Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is approaching 100,000 signatures as outside pressure for her to leave also appears to build, but the site's embattled leader is remaining defiant.
The firestorm started on Thursday afternoon, when Reddit fired its popular director of talent, Victoria Taylor. She was in charge of running the site's Ask Me Anything (or IAMA) sessions, coordinating celebrities and politicians to interact directly with the site's users in a Q&A format.
The site's volunteer moderators were unaware of her firing, which caused the IAMA board to go private. Dozens of other boards, or subreddits as they are known, either turned to private or stopped taking submissions as a show of support and to express their dismay at the site's apparent lack of help for the army of volunteer moderators that keep everything running.
But what started as an internal conflict between moderators and administrators quickly spread to users. Many flooded the site's front page with protests against Reddit and Ellen Pao in particular.
One user started a Change.org petition to fire Ellen Pao, and it gained traction almost immediately. Through a little more than one day, the petition has 85,000 signatures, and on Saturday morning was increasing at a rate of several thousand per hour.
Pao had already been under attack for the last several weeks after announcing that a handful of boards would be banned for violating the site's rules on harassment. One of those subreddits, a haven for mocking fat people aptly titled FatPeopleHate, had hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Many users were angry at its deletion, with Pao accused of stifling free speech on the site.
Though that protest mostly faded after a few days, the latest effort to persuade Reddit to fire Ellen Pao has gained considerable traction.
Pao herself has spun into damage control mode, telling the New York Times that she was "sorry we let our community down yesterday."
"We should have informed our community moderators about the transition and worked through it with them," Pao said.
Ellen Pao may now be under pressure beyond the site's members. The site-wide protest this week impinged on advertising revenue at a time when Reddit has been struggling to find a successful revenue model. Though Reddit is a private company and does not disclose revenue, in past years the site's leadership has said they are not yet profitable.
It also comes as Reddit just raised $50 million in venture capital to undergo a hiring and advertising campaign.
But despite the calls for her to be removed as Reddit CEO, Ellen Pao said she remains committed to the job.
"It's an exciting job," Pao said. "We're doing a lot behind the scenes that people have not seen yet."
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]