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Reddit warns its business could be damaged by another moderator revolt

Lloyd Lee   

Reddit warns its business could be damaged by another moderator revolt
  • Last year, Reddit moderators protested against site changes that restricted third-party app access.
  • Thousands of subreddits went private, locking the public from viewing popular forums.

Years after the website's launch, Reddit, an online message board platform, is preparing to go public next month.

In advance of the planned IPO, the company filed a prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which outlines risks associated with its business that potential shareholders should be aware of.

One of those "risk factors" includes "disruptions" to the site's function as a result of "actions or inactions" by "volunteer moderators" — a subtle admission by Reddit of how much it relies on the goodwill of moderators and the potential impacts of a moderator revolt.

In June, thousands of popular subreddits, or forums, went private as moderators — unpaid users who ensure visitors follow community guidelines of those forums — protested changes to the platform. Some of the subreddits included millions of members.

Reddit at the time was facing backlash for its plans to begin charging companies for access to its application programming interface, or API. The access to Reddit's large swaths of data was typically used free of charge by third-party apps such as Apollo or Sync, which were one of the favored ways for Reddit users to navigate the website.

Moderators, in response, conducted a 48-hour protest of those changes, restricting access to public forums by making them private.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told The Verge in an interview during the community blackouts that the protests would do nothing to change the company's mind.

"We've had blackouts in previous times where there's a little more room for movement. But the core of this one is the API pricing change. That's our business decision. And we're not undoing that business decision," Huffman said.

The protests ultimately didn't affect change to the direction of Reddit's business plans, but the company evidently understands one thing: Going to war with moderators is bad business.

A spokesperson for Reddit declined to comment.

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