Reddit’s CEO Ellen Pao Resigns, Steve Huffman Regains Title

Reddit’s CEO Ellen Pao quits after receiving ‘sickening’ abuse from forum users.

2 min read
In this Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, Ellen Pao, center, with her attorney, Therese Lawless, left, leaves the Civic Center Courthouse during a lunch break in her trial in San Francisco. (Photo: AP)

Reddit said on Friday that interim CEO Ellen Pao resigned from the company, and co-founder Steve Huffman is back as its CEO.

The freewheeling online discussion forum and news site, which says it had 164 million unique visitors last month, has been rocked by unrest recently. The firing of a popular staffer earlier this month upset some users, leading to volunteers shutting down parts of the site, and there have been protests over new policies intended to fight harassment.

A statement posted on the site by Reddit board member Sam Altman on Friday said that Pao, who became interim CEO in November, resigned by mutual agreement and will continue to advise the board for the rest of 2015.

In an email, Pao said she resigned because Reddit’s board was asking for faster user growth than she could deliver while holding on to the site’s core values. She defended Reddit’s policy changes, saying that, despite criticism, the new rules are making the community stronger.

We’ve taken bold and often controversial stances, but always with the greater good of the community in mind. We tackled the thorny issues of harassment on the site, banning harassing behavior without censoring ideas. Though we came under fire on many fronts, we did not waver, working 24/7 to try to keep the site harassment-free.
— Ellen Pao, former interim CEO, Reddit

In a statement posted to Reddit, Pao thanks users who were supportive, saying the positives from the site far outweighed the negatives, and she urged Redditors to “remember the human” behind the keyboard.

This month Reddit fired Victoria Taylor, who helped run the site’s popular “Ask Me Anything” feature, where Reddit users submit questions to celebrities and other notable people. Some volunteer moderators protested her ouster by shutting down sections of the site, including Ask Me Anything.

Reddit also announced anti-harassment guidelines this year and, in June, it banned a few groups for violating those rules. Reddit is known for an almost-anything goes style, but leadership said in May that it was unhappy with harassment on its site and survey data showed its users were also upset about the behaviour. The company apologised and said it would do a better job of communicating with moderators and users.

Before becoming Reddit’s CEO, Pao had worked for a storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. She lost a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins in March that brought up issues of the gender imbalance and difficulties faced by women working in Silicon Valley.

(This story was edited for clarity and length.)

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