New Reddit CEO tries to win over users in midst of scandal that saw popular employee fired and ex-boss Ellen Pao forced out during 'revolt' staged by unpaid moderators

  • Steve Huffman hosted an AMA to reassure the online community 
  • Follows uproar by staff and volunteers over firing of Victoria Taylor  
  • Insisted he will never look to ban content unless they really have to 
  • Added that if posts are taken down, users will be able to find out why  
  • The incoming boss admitted he is still 'getting to know everyone here'
  • He insisted Pao was not used as a 'scapegoat' and is looking to move on 

Reddit's new CEO has begun his tenure by trying to win over users in the midst of a scandal that saw Ellen Pao ousted from the company and an uprising by staff.

Steve Huffman, who is returning to the content sharing site he founded in 2005, reassured the online community of his vision during an AMA forum by insisting he would never look to ban content, unless the site is forced to.

If posts are removed, the web developer said there will be greater transparency to see why they were taken down. 

When asked about the firing of communications director Victoria Taylor, which provoked a revolt among staff and loyal users, he said he was 'sorry' how everything worked out, but admitted the popular former employee would not be returning.

He also insisted Pao was not used as a 'scapegoat', instead she 'took one on the chin' in a time of crisis.   

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Done: Ellen Pao (above) has stepped down as CEO of Reddit

Reddit's new CEO Steve Huffman has tried to win over users as his tenure begins after Ellen Pao was ousted from the company during a 'revolt' by staff 

Huffman, who also started the airfare site Hipmunk, was announced as Pao's replacement on Friday after unrest at the online discussion forum and news site.

It was prompted by the departure of Taylor, who was popular with the volunteers who help maintain the site.

She was best known for running Ask Me Anything and became synonymous with the section as the interface between high-profile guests and Reddit’s massive community

In response, some Reddit users made numbers of popular subsections inaccessible in a ‘revolt’ over the former communications director’s dismissal. 

Volunteer moderators who work with paid administrators to run the site’s discussion threads turned many of the ‘subreddits’ dark. 

Pao was forced to make a grovelling apology on the site in response. ‘We screwed up. Today, we acknowledge this long history of mistakes.’ But her words have done little to quell either the surge of support for Taylor or the hostility towards Pao.  

To start the discussion on Saturday, in the wake of the scandal, Hauffman said he was excited for the job ahead, but admitted a turnaround was still needed

He wrote: 'I know we have a lot of work to do. One of my first priorities is to re-establish a relationship with the community. This is the first of what I expect will be many AMAs (I'm thinking I'll do these weekly).'

During the conversation he added that users will be informed if their content has been pulled down, and there will be a process to appeal the decision. 

'I think mods should be able to moderate, but there should also be some mechanism to see what was removed. It doesn't have to be easy, but it shouldn't be impossible,' he added.

He also quashed concerns over money, saying the site has 'a lot of cash' and monetization isn't an issue in the short term. 

Hauffman was asked about Pao's firing, and questioned as to whether she was the victim of problems at the company.

He said: 'No, Ellen was not used as a scapegoat. She stepped up during a time of crisis for reddit, for which we were thankful. Things didn't go smoothly, for sure, but I will do my best to guide us forward. 

'It's hard to imagine she was (responsible), but responsibility flows up. I'm sure there will be times I've got to take it on the chin as well. Part of the gig.

Despite the circumstances surrounding Taylor's firing, Hauffman said she would not be returning.

When asked he said: 'No. I know she was well-loved by many moderators, and I'm very sorry at how everything played out. It could have been handled much better.

'However, she was let go for specific reasons, which I obviously will not share, and we will stand by that decision.

'What we will absolutely do is make sure we have dedicate people internally to help manage the relationships between moderators and guests on reddit. 

Victoria Taylor
Victoria Taylor

Backlash: Pao's decision comes eight days after the dismissal of popular Reddit staffer Victoria Taylor (seen above earlier this week), who ran the Ask Me Anything feature

'I'm still getting to know everyone here, and I expect this will be an ongoing conversation between you all and I.'   

Despite the move in a new direction, Reddit still needs to recover from a series of scandal. 

Earlier this year the site came under fire with users earlier this year when they announced anti-harassment guidelines this year and in June it banned a few groups for violating those rules.

Reddit is known for an almost-anything goes style, but leadership said in May that it was unhappy with harassment on its site and survey data showed its users were also upset about the behavior.

A statement posted on Reddit said that Pao, who became interim CEO in November, resigned from by mutual agreement and will continue to advise the board for the rest of 2015.

Huffman co-founded Reddit in 2005 with Alexis Ohanian. Conde Nast acquired Reddit the following year, and both Huffman and Ohanian left the company in October 2009. 

Ohanian returned as San Francisco-based Reddit's executive chairman in November.

Before becoming Reddit's CEO, Pao had worked for a storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. 

She lost a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins in March that brought up issues of the gender imbalance and difficulties faced by women working in Silicon Valley.  


Ellen Pao resigned from reddit today by mutual agreement. I’m delighted to announce that Steve Huffman, founder and the original reddit CEO, is returning as CEO.

We are thankful for Ellen’s many contributions to reddit and the technology industry generally. She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth. She brought a face to reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry. She will remain as an advisor to the board through the end of 2015. I look forward to seeing the great things she does beyond that.

We’re very happy to have Steve back. 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. Steve is rejoining Alexis, who will work alongside Steve with the new title of “cofounder.”

A few other points. Mods, you are what makes reddit great. The reddit team, now with Steve, wants to do more for you. You deserve better moderation tools and better communication from the admins.

Second, redditors, you deserve clarity about what the content policy of reddit is going to be. The team will create guidelines to both preserve the integrity of reddit and to maintain reddit as the place where the most open and honest conversations with the entire world can happen.

Third, as a redditor, I’m particularly happy that Steve is so passionate about mobile. I’m very excited to use reddit more on my phone.

As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things redditors wrote about Ellen. 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. Steve’s great challenge as CEO will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward.


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