So Reddit is in a tizzy again. This time, surprisingly, it’s not because Redditors are outraged that the site admins have hired a woman, or shut down one of dozens of subreddits devoted to, I dunno, stolen pictures of dead celebrity babies, or some other typically Reddity thing for Redditors to get outraged about.
No, this time Redditors are angry because Reddit seems have fired the one staffer who was genuinely liked by a wide swath of Redditors — that staffer being Victoria Taylor, Reddit’s Director of Talent, perhaps best known for keeping the site’s mega-popular Ask Me Anything (AMA) threads running smoothly, which extended to relaying questions to famous guests and transcribing their answers.
After learning of her mysterious departure yesterday, the IAmA subreddit — home to Reddit’s AMAs — took itself private as it tried to figure out how to operate without her. Other subreddits, including some of the site’s most popular ones, took themselves private in solidarity. It’s a testament to how badly site admins have handled this that both the Men’s Rights subreddit AND GamerGhazi — the main anti-GamerGate subreddit — have gone dark.
With no explanation of the firing forthcoming from the Reddit overlords, there’s a lot of speculation going on.
Some Redditors are convinced that Taylor’s apparent firing was a response to her perceived mishandling of a Jesse Jackson AMA (archived here). Reddit being Reddit — that is, a site that has been welcoming to trolls and bigots and other terrible people from the start — Jackson was peppered with an assortment of hostile and sometimes openly racist questions, including one lovely tirade that started by declaring him “an immoral, hate-filled race baiter,” before asking him “how is your relationship with the illegitimate child you fathered in 1998 while cheating on your wife” and whether or not “Al Capone would be jealous of your business model if he were still alive?”
Jackson’s response to that question was so bizarre that it seems clear that Taylor must have censored the question before relaying it to him. If true, this was a well-intentioned mistake that had the unintended effect of making Jackson look like he was admitting to being an extortionist.
But of course the outpouring of hate in the AMA was hardly her fault; that’s what happens on a site that allows racism to flourish to such an extent that white supremacists have started using it as a primo hunting ground for new recruits.
Meanwhile, other Reddit observers are suggesting that the Jesse Jackson theory is bunk and that Taylor was in fact booted because she was resisting Reddit’s efforts to “overcommercialize” the site.
Whatever the reason, the Reddit overlords have a bit of a PR disaster on their hands.
For more details and updates, see this summary of events on Gawker and/or this highly useful thread on the Out of the Loop subreddit. And if you have any other useful links or info, feel free to post them below.