Reddit CEO Pao Under Fire as Users Protest Removal of Executive

(Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg's Cory Johnson reports on a Reddit users petition asking for CEO Ellen Pao to resign. Johnson speaks on “Bloomberg Markets.” (Source: Bloomberg)

More than 130,000 people have signed a petition demanding the removal of Ellen Pao, Reddit Inc.’s interim chief executive officer, after she dismissed an executive and was accused of censoring online message boards.

Pao fired Victoria Taylor, the director of talent for the San Francisco-based company that operates an online message forum. Most of Reddit’s message boards experienced blackouts on July 3 as moderators protested the July 2 dismissal.

Even as Pao apologized for the handling of Taylor’s removal, the petition posted on had crossed the 100,000-signature barrier by Saturday and added more than 30,000 by midday Sunday.

The petition, posted four weeks ago, said Pao should be removed because a majority of Reddit users believe she “overstepped her boundaries and fears that she will run Reddit into the ground.” The petition and other online posts refer to a gender-bias suit Pao filed against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, where she used to work.

Pao, who was appointed Reddit CEO in November 2014, gained national prominence with the Kleiner suit. She lost in a jury verdict in March and has said she may appeal.

“Ellen has the full support of the team,” Heather Wilson, a spokeswoman for Reddit, said Sunday in an e-mail. Wilson said Pao isn’t commenting on the petition.

Pao, 46, issued her apology on July 4, saying Reddit should have shared more information about Taylor’s exit. “We are working to make improvements and create the best experience for our users and we aren’t always perfect,” Pao said in the e-mailed statement released by Wilson.

Discussion Areas

The petition for Pao’s removal charges she is responsible for “a new age of censorship” on Reddit’s website. Almost 300 discussion areas, called subreddits, were marked private and required moderator approval to view on July 3, the New York Times reported.

“Most of the subreddits are back online,” Wilson said in a July 4 e-mail. “We think a few may still be out but the great majority have come back up since yesterday.”

Reddit celebrated its 10th anniversary last week and has published more than 1.7 billion comments since it was founded, according to its blog. The closely held company generated $8.28 million in advertising revenue last year, the blog has reported.

Reddit users vote to choose the most popular content and can collect “karma” points for submitting links and voting on other users’ posts, according to the website. Volunteer moderators are among those who set the parameters of a discussion and can ban abusive users. They aren’t appointed by Reddit, according to its website.

“As much as Victoria is loved, this reaction is not all a result of her departure,” a moderator know as Gilgamesh wrote in a post on July 3. “There is a feeling among many of the moderators of Reddit that the admins do not respect the work that is put in by the thousands of unpaid volunteers who maintain the communities of the 9,656 active subreddits.”

Taylor, in a July 2 posting on Twitter, said “Thank you to everyone for their good wishes and support. Love you guys.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE