Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigns, urges black board replacement
- Steve Huffman, co-founder and chief executive of Reddit, said the company would honour Ohanian’s request
- A pro-Trump message board on Reddit called The_Donald has been a continued source of tension for the site’s users
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the social news aggregation and discussion site Reddit, announced his resignation from its board of directors on Friday and called on the company to replace him with a black candidate.
Reddit, one of the most popular websites in the world, has long been a source of controversy. Ohanian has an on-again, off-again relationship with the company. He stepped down from day-to-day work with Reddit in 2018, but had remained on its board.
“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” he wrote on Twitter. “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”
In a video, Ohanian said: “I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks what did you do. So, I have resigned as a member of the Reddit board. I have urged them to fill my seat with a black candidate and I will use future gains on my Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate.” He has a two-year-old daughter with his wife, tennis star Serena Williams.
A pro-Trump message board on Reddit called The_Donald has been a continued source of tension. Reddit’s former interim chief executive Ellen Pao publicly criticised the company this week.
In response to a post from the company about the Black Lives Matter movement, Pao wrote on Twitter: “I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetises white supremacy and hate all day long.”
In a post to Reddit on Friday afternoon, Huffman said the site will change how it deals with racist comments. “In 2018, I confusingly said racism is not against the rules, but also isn’t welcome on Reddit,” he wrote. “This gap between our content policy and our values has eroded our effectiveness in combating hate and racism on Reddit; I accept full responsibility for this.”
Huffman said that the company would take stronger action against racism, but provided few details. “We have a choice: return to the status quo or use this opportunity for change,” he wrote. “We at Reddit are opting for the latter, and we will do our very best to be a part of the progress.”
The Reddit chief executive did not say explicitly whether the company would officially ban The_Donald forum, which he described as being in a “near-dead state”. Reddit has had a policy of quarantining the group, partitioning it off from its front page and warning users before they visited it. But banning the so-called subreddit outright could raise hackles among conservatives who have long accused Bay Area social media companies of political bias. In his post, Huffman described the subreddit as “a community that relished in exploiting and detracting from the best of Reddit”.
A spokeswoman for Ohanian’s venture capital firm Initialised Capital declined to make him available for comment.
Ohanian also said he would pledge US$1 million to Know Your Rights Camp, a non-profit organisation founded by Colin Kaepernick, the NFL star who has been shunned by the league for peacefully protesting for black rights.
“It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country,” Ohanian said in the video that was included in his Twitter thread on Friday.