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How John Oliver Became Reddit's Unlikely Hero in a Fight Against Corporate Greed

From a Joke Poll to a Site-Wide Phenomenon: The Story of Reddit’s John Oliver Protest

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If you have been browsing Reddit lately, you might have noticed a peculiar phenomenon: almost every subreddit is flooded with pictures of John Oliver, the British comedian and host of Last Week Tonight. You might wonder what Oliver has to do with Reddit, and why he is suddenly so popular among the site's users. The answer lies in a hilarious and surreal protest against Reddit's owners, who are trying to charge developers for accessing the site's data.

The origin of the protest


It all started with a poll on r/pics, one of the most popular subreddits on the site, where users can post and vote on pictures of anything. The poll asked users to choose between two options: "Only allow pictures of John Oliver" or "Allow any picture". The poll was meant to be a joke, but it backfired when more than 80% of the voters chose the first option.

From a Joke Poll to a Site-Wide Phenomenon: The Story of Reddit’s John Oliver Protest

"John Oliver Washington"

By u/SpyderJ on r/pics


The moderators of r/pics decided to honor the result and changed the rules of the subreddit to only allow pictures of John Oliver, the British comedian and host of Last Week Tonight. They also added a twist: the pictures had to show John Oliver "looking sexy", which they defined as "any picture of John Oliver because John Oliver is always sexy".

From a Joke Poll to a Site-Wide Phenomenon: The Story of Reddit’s John Oliver Protest

"I present to you, John Blobiver

By u/Crim91 on r/aww


The move was not only a prank, but also a protest against Reddit's decision to charge money for API access, which would affect third-party apps that many users rely on to browse the site. Reddit's API is the system that allows other software and apps to connect to Reddit and access its data. Reddit said it wanted to charge large data-scraping firms that use Reddit data to train systems such as ChatGPT, but in the process, it also blocked popular apps such as Apollo, Reddit is Fun, Sync and ReddPlanet.

The spread of the protest


The protest soon spread to other subreddits, some of which held similar polls and ended up with similar results. Some of the biggest subreddits that joined the protest include r/aww (pictures of cute animals), r/gifs (animated images), r/funny (humor), r/todayilearned (interesting facts), r/worldnews (global news) and r/askreddit (questions and answers).


The protest also took different forms, such as posting videos, memes, quotes, songs and even NFTs featuring John Oliver. Some users also posted pictures of other celebrities or fictional characters that resemble John Oliver, such as Daniel Radcliffe, Steve Carell, Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins.

From a Joke Poll to a Site-Wide Phenomenon: The Story of Reddit’s John Oliver Protest

"John Oliver Twist

By u/jc2pointzero on r/aww


The protest was not only a way to express dissatisfaction with Reddit's management, but also a way to have fun and create a sense of community among users. Many users praised John Oliver for his witty and insightful commentary on various topics, such as politics, media, health care, environment and corruption. Some users even suggested that John Oliver should run for president or become Reddit's CEO.

From a Joke Poll to a Site-Wide Phenomenon: The Story of Reddit’s John Oliver Protest

"Visited Paris recently and saw the famous John Oliver painting"

By u/redcalcium on r/pics

John Oliver's reaction


John Oliver himself seemed amused by the protest and tweeted his support for the subreddits' strike. He called it "excellent work" and told Redditors to "have at it", before posting a series of pictures that stretch the definition of the word "sexy". He also joked that he was "not sure what this is about" and that he was "just happy to be involved".


John Oliver's tweet received more than 200k likes and 40k retweets, as well as thousands of replies from Reddit users who thanked him for his humor and activism. Some users also invited him to do an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit, where he could answer questions from fans and discuss his views on various issues.

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