Despite assurances from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman in an internal memo this week, who assured employees that “like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass,” the chaos at the social media site has not subsided, and now it seems like could go on for the long haul.
Minutes after The Verge published a leaked memo Huffman sent to Reddit employees on Tuesday evening, in which the CEO reportedly dug in his heels and stated he would not budge on planned changes to Reddit’s API pricing, moderators participating in the blackout leapt to action. In a post, moderators said they were calling for an “infinite blackout” to force Reddit to act on their demands, including bringing down the cost of API pricing.
In the leaked memo on Tuesday, Huffman told Reddit employees that the company needed to move forward and do what it said it would.
“There’s a lot of noise with this one. Among the noisiest we’ve seen. Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well. The most important things we can do right now are stay focused, adapt to challenges, and keep moving forward,” Huffman said in the memo, as reported by The Verge. “We absolutely must ship what we said we would. The only long term solution is improving our product, and in the short term we have a few upcoming critical mod tool launches we need to nail.”
Reddit has budged “microscopically,” moderators wrote in r/ModCoord on Tuesday evening, claiming that the company had remained “silent” since the blackout began.
“300+ subs have already announced that they are in it for the long haul, prepared to remain private or otherwise inaccessible indefinitely until Reddit provides an adequate solution,” moderators stated, adding that these included the heavily popular r/aww, r/music, r/videos, and r/futurology, which have more than 110 million users combined.
When reached for comment, a Reddit spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company was “not planning any changes to the API updates we’ve previously announced.”
More than 8,000 subreddits went dark—or private—on Monday for a planned two-day strike, according to the tracker Reddark, essentially hiding the site’s best content from public view and delivering a blow to user experience. On Monday, the site went down over the blackouts. As of Wednesday morning, the day the strike was originally set to end, more than 6,700 subreddits were still set to private.
Thousands of moderators for subreddits across Reddit decided to protest weeks after the company announced a change to its API policy on May 31, which would drastically increase the price third-party apps would have to pay to access it. A platform’s API allows third-party developers to create apps and products for its platform. As such, some beloved apps like the Reddit reader Apollo, which many users prefer over the official Reddit app, announced they would shut down because they wouldn’t be able to absorb the new pricing.
In Apollo’s case, the new price tag to access Reddit’s API would be more than $20 million a year, its developer Christian Selig said. Apollo is set to officially close on June 30.
Reddit, meanwhile, argued that with its API pricing change, the company simply wanted to stop companies like Google and OpenAI from training their AI models on Reddit content.
“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” Huffman said in an AMA on June 9.
Huffman and the company have repeatedly refused to budge on making changes to the policy, though it will offer exceptions for noncommercial accessibility focused apps.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation summed up the situation and the motivation behind the strike in a blog post: “It’s the latest example of a social media site making a critical mistake: users aren’t there for the services, they’re there for the community. Building barriers to access is a war of attrition.”