Ellen Pao, who was instated as Reddit’s CEO eight months ago, has decided to call it quits after she was subjected to vitriolic hate messages by users of the website.
Reddit, which claims to be the “front page of the internet,” is an online message board where users can create threads to discuss anything that catches their fancy.
However, the popular website has found itself enmeshed in a crisis in recent weeks after its volunteer moderators shut down many of the most trafficked parts of the site. According to an article published in the New York Times, this was done in response to Ellen Pao’s decision to oust Victoria Taylor, a techie and administrator of the extremely popular “Ask Me Anything” feature of the website.
In an interview with Time, Ellen Pao confessed to the decision not being properly thought out.
“We handled the transition in a way that caused some disruption and we should have done a better job.”
But her statement, which many read as an apology, failed to placate the users. As the Daily Beast reported, almost 200,000 Reddit users signed a petition calling for Ellen Pao’s resignation. In what was perhaps the most malicious hate campaign against a CEO of such a large corporation, users attacked her racial identity, and in some cases, even her gender. Some users went as far as to start calling her “Chairman Pao” and compared the former lawyer to Hitler.
Reddit investor and Y Combinator President Sam Altman, who broke the news of Ellen Pao’s departure on Reddit, called on the users be more compassionate.
“It was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen Pao. The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you. If the reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community.”
He also announced that Steve Huffman, who founded Reddit with his University of Virginia roommate, Alexis Ohanian, back in 2005, will return as the CEO of the company.
“I’m delighted to announce that Steve Huffman, founder and the original reddit CEO, is returning as CEO. Product and community are the two legs of reddit, and the board was very focused on finding a candidate who excels at both (truthfully, community is harder), which Steve does. He has the added bonus of being a founder with ten years of reddit history in his head.”
Meanwhile, the internet has reacted to Ellen Pao’s departure in contradictory ways. While CNET wrote the whole petition-signing campaign against Ellen Pao was reminiscent of a “revolt,” the Daily Beast called Reddit users “terrorists” for forcing Ellen Pao to step down.
While the debate rages on about Ellen Pao, the future of Reddit does not look as bright as it once used to. Somehow, the “front page of the internet” has lost its sheen.
[Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images]