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Ellen Pao out as Reddit CEO, co-founder Steve Huffman takes over

Nicole Lee, @nicole
07.10.15
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After an onslaught of user criticism, Ellen Pao has just stepped down as interim CEO of Reddit, with co-founder Steve Huffman taking over. During her time as CEO, Reddit not only banned several subreddits over harassment concerns but also abruptly dismissed Victoria Taylor, the company's former director of talent who was also instrumental in making the site's "AMA" (Ask Me Anything) feature mainstream. As a result, subreddit moderators then took key parts of the site down in protest and users took to the forums to voice their disapproval of Pao. Pao did apologize, but that did little to quash the community's ire. Still, despite her retiring as CEO, Pao will stay on as advisor.

In a statement posted by Reddit board member Sam Altman, it appears that Pao's resignation was a mutual agreement between her and the team. Altman also went on to say that the team hopes to do better by the community, with better clarity of content policies and improved communication with the moderators. Additionally, Altman took the opportunity to say that some of the comments about Pao were "sickening," especially the death threats against her. That said, Pao states that many redditors were very supportive and the large majority did not do those things.

After posting the statement, Altman has also started an AMA for those with more questions. Also, new CEO Steve Huffman has stuck around in that Reddit statement thread to answer questions.

In her own post on Reddit, Pao gives a heartfelt farewell. She states:

After more than two years at reddit, I have resigned today. My first day was April 1, 2013 (go orangered!), and every day since has been an adventure.

In my eight months as reddit's CEO, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly on reddit. The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.

I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings. Everyone attacked on reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said. Also because it undercuts the authenticity of reddit and shakes our faith in humanity.

What has far outshone the hate has been the positive on reddit. Thank you, kind strangers, for expressing your support. You gilded me 100 times. (For those of you who apologized for generating a wave of accusations that I gilded myself, please don't feel bad. You did a good thing.) And thank you for sending cute animal pics and encouraging me to "Stay safe!" when the site overheated with expressions of hate in various forms. There were some days when your PMs inspired me more than you can imagine.

Most touching were the stories from regular users. Some told of people they knew who had committed suicide for being transgender or exposed in revenge porn. Others shared their experiences of being harassed and expressed empathy and gratitude. More recently, several users apologized for trolling me and for not giving me the benefit of the doubt when the troll hivemind moved against me. Initially users said they were afraid to post supportive messages openly; recently they started fighting back against the trolls publicly on reddit with support, corrections and positive messages.

So why am I leaving? Ultimately, the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit's core principles.

You will be in good hands -- our strong leadership team will now be led by u/spez, one of reddit's original co-founders. Like u/kn0thing, he's lived and breathed reddit since its inception and will work passionately to ensure reddit's success.

Thank you to all the users who shared your excitement about reddit and what we've done and for encouraging everyone to remember the human. And thank you for making my time here at reddit an amazing learning experience.

UPDATE: Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has left a comment in the Pao resignation thread that seems to indicate he was behind the firing of Taylor. He says: "It was my decision to change how we work with AMAs and the transition was my failure and I hope we can keep moving forward from that lesson."

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