Jun 5, 2020 - Economy

Reddit co-founder resigns, urges board to give black candidate his seat

Photo by Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, a venture capitalist who has championed civic causes such as stronger parental leave policies, is resigning from the board of the company he helped create, he announced Friday on Twitter.

Why it matters: His resignation comes amid increased scrutiny against Reddit for the way it moderates the content on its platform, including former executives.

Details: In a video posted to Twitter, Ohanian said he resigned as a member of the Reddit board and has urged them to fill his seat with a black candidate.

  • He says he will use future gains on his Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly, "to curb racial hate."
  • He also notes that he's pledging $1 million to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp. Other tech executives, like Twitter's Jack Dorsey, have also made contributions to the same cause.

"I am saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks, 'What did you do?" said Ohanian, who is married to Serena Williams.

  • "Fifteen years ago I co-founded Reddit to help people find community and a sense of belonging."
  • "It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country."
  • "I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership to people in power right now."

The big picture: Like other Big Tech companies, backlash against Reddit has been mounting ever since Donald Trump was elected in 2016.

  • There have since been numerous calls by activists to push Reddit to take action against far-right and extremist groups on its platform.
  • Amid the current racial protests, those calls have amplified.

Earlier this week, former Reddit president Ellen Pao ripped the company's current CEO Steve Huffman for "amplifying" racism and hate.

  • She said Huffman should've removed the Reddit channel for Donald Trump supporters, called r/the_donald, instead of "amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet," she tweeted.
  • Huffman's letter said the company was exploring short and long-term solutions to curbing hate on the platform, but the letter did not say the company was taking any immediate action.

Between the lines: Reddit, like its Big Tech peers, is in a precarious position when it comes to how it balances free speech with hate. On Thursday, Republican lawmakers threatened in a letter to Reddit they will soon take action against the tech company for trying to censor the same channel that Pao denounced it for leaving up, "r/The_Donald."

The bottom line: While Reddit gets less attention for its position in the online free speech debate than some of its Big Tech rivals, the current political climate is putting more public pressure on the company to make changes.

Go deeper: Axios' Dan Primack spoke with Ohanian about Reddit's future last year

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