Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the company’s board and asked that he be replaced by a black candidate, just days after a former chief executive blasted the company for allowing racism to thrive on its popular web forums.
“I am doing this for me, for my family and for my country,” Ohanian said in a recorded video segment, appearing to fight back tears. “I am saying this as a father who needs to answer his black daughter when she asks, ‘What did you do.’”
Ohanian added that he will use future gains on his Reddit stock to serve the black community, “chiefly, to curb racial hate.” He pledged $1 million to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp legal defense initiative, joining Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who on Thursday donated $3 million to the charity.
Despite what appeared to be an emotional resignation on Friday, Ohanian — who co-founded the company in 2005 with CEO Steve Huffman — has previously been reluctant to combat hate speech and abuse on Reddit’s platform, instead preferring to allow most users to say whatever they like.
“The general spirit is we want to encourage dialogue,” he said in a 2018 interview. “We want to encourage opportunities for people to be wrong and be corrected. Part of this is having a place where things can be said that I find incredibly disagreeable and reprehensible, but are still conversations that are happening right now online or offline in this country and in this world.”
With protests raging over the killing of George Floyd, that stance drew the ire of former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, who earlier this week slammed the for profiting off of hate speech.
“You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long,” Pao tweeted on Tuesday in response to a letter from CEO Huffman, who had said in a blog post a day earlier that Reddit doesn’t tolerate “hate, racism, and violence.”
Pao took issue in particular with the subreddit r/The_Donald, which was “quarantined” last year due to threats its members posted against police and public figures.
“You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism and violence,” Pao said. “So much of what is happening now lies at your feet.”