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Reddit Users Are at War With Their Own CEO. Here's Why Thousands of Subreddits Are Going Dark. About 2,500 message boards are still dark, according to a website tracking the protests.

By Sam Silverman

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hoto Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
In this photo illustration, a woman's silhouette holds a smartphone with the Reddit logo in the background.

Reddit, a network of communities serving as an online public forum (known as "the front page of the Internet") is at odds with its base (the app has about 57 million daily users) after announcing major changes to the platform in April, such as charging third-party apps and potential moderation changes.

The shakeup has sparked a mass outcry from users. On June 12, nearly 9,000 subreddits went dark (some of which with 30 million subscribers) to protest the changes. About 2,500 are still dark.

Despite the furor, CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman has remained unmoved.

"Reddit represents one of the largest data sets of just human beings talking about interesting things. We are not in the business of giving that away for free," Huffman told NPR while explaining that businesses can't be allowed to build off of Reddit's data and take traffic away from the website.

"We've been subsidizing other businesses for free for a long time. We're stopping that. That is not a negotiable point," he added, "We simply were in an unsustainable position."

Here's what to know about the Reddit protests.

What Is the Reddit Protest About?

Reddit has been under fire ever since it announced in April that it will begin charging third-party apps to use its application-programming interface, or API, which had been free since the website's inception in 2005.

The decision comes as large companies like Google, OpenAI, and Microsoft have been using the platform's data free of charge to develop and train artificial intelligence systems, according to The New York Times. However, the change will also impact smaller third-party websites like Apollo ReddPlanet, and Sync, which many people use to access the website.

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Under the new pricing plan of $0.24 for every 1,000 API calls, per Reuters, Apollo would be hit with $20 million in annual charges, forcing the platform to shut down on June 30 – one day before the new pricing plan goes into effect on July 1.

Additionally, people fear that the shakeup may limit access to tools that discussion board moderators (which Reddit relies on to moderate the chat channels for free) use to manage their communities, although Reddit said that the API will still be free for moderator tools. However, many moderators utilize third-party apps to effectively manage the safety of their communities, per AP News.

To protest the changing business model, nearly 9,000 subreddits went dark as an act of rebellion starting June 12, some of which with 30 million subscribers.

RELATED: 'We Expect to Leak the Data': Reddit Hackers Demand $4.5 Million and API Pricing Changes But Say They Doubt The Company Will Pay

However, subreddit moderators were only expected to make their communities inaccessible for 48 hours, but nearly 2,500 message boards that participated in the initial protest are still dark, according to a website tracking the protests.

In response, Huffman said the majority of Reddit users and moderators don't utilize these apps to browse the website. He also said they want to reform their moderator policy altogether, which currently allows someone to be a moderator for years unless removed by a higher-ranking moderator for violating the rules or self-removal.

"And I think, on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic," Huffman told NBC News.

Huffman suggested that a voting system would be better and floated the possibility of replacing moderators with paid staffers for more company control but didn't provide a timeline of when these possible changes would be implemented.

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How Long Is the Reddit Protest, and When Will it End?

While Reddit reportedly said it would respect the protests, some moderators received a letter stating that if they don't reopen their subreddit communities, they would be replaced, according to The Verge.

In some instances, communities opened back up with memes of John Oliver to keep their subreddits afloat. Some have flooded themselves with inappropriate content through tags as an act of defiance.

Additionally, hacking group BlackCat (also known as ALPHV) claims to have stolen 80 gigabytes of data and threatened to leak it if Reddit doesn't roll back the changes and pay $4.5 million in ransom.

RELATED: Alexis Ohanian's Resignation from Reddit is the Type of Leadership the World Needs

Still, Reddit has not budged on its upcoming changes. Many communities have vowed to remain dark indefinitely until their demands are met, with moderators risking replacement.

As for the unrest amongst Redditors, Huffman said that "protest and dissent is important" in an interview with AP News but added, "The problem with this one is it's not going to change anything because we made a business decision that we're not negotiating on."

Who Is Reddit CEO Steve Huffman?

Reddit CEO and Co-Founder Steve Huffman is leading the charge to change Reddit's business model.

Huffman, 39, started the website with Alexis Ohanian back in 2005 after they met in college at the University of Virginia, located in his home state. He stayed on board at the company as acting CEO until 2009 before starting the travel website Hipmunk in 2010.

RELATED: Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian Emotionally Receives Honorary Plaque at the Virginia Waffle House Where He Decided To Start His Company

After five years as CTO at Hipmunk, Huffman returned to Reddit in 2015, where he has been CEO ever since. He is known for launching the platform's redesign in 2018.

Huffman's net worth has not been publicly reported, though some websites estimate that his net worth is around $10 million.

Reddit was valued at $10 billion after its last funding round in 2021, per The New York Times.

Sam Silverman

Content Strategy Editor

Sam Silverman is a content strategy editor at Entrepreneur Media. She specializes in search engine optimization (SEO), and her work can be found in The US Sun, Nicki Swift, In Touch Weekly, Life & Style and Health. She writes for our news team with a focus on investigating scandals. Her coverage and expertise span from business news, entrepreneurship, technology, and true crime, to the latest in entertainment and TV news. Sam is a graduate of Lehigh University and currently resides in NYC. 

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