Alexis Ohanian steps down from Reddit board

Reddit co-founder has stepped down from the company’s board of directors in what he described as a  “long overdue” move to “do the right thing” by ending his involvement with a site that has been long been criticized for providing a forum for racist and misogynistic hate speech.

“I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’,” Ohanian said in a blog post on Friday.

Ohanian, who is married to tennis star Serena Williams, founded Reddit 15 years ago with his college roommate. The privately-held social news aggregation site is now valued at $3 billion.

Ohanian’s resignation from the Reddit board comes as protests for racial justice continue to rage across the US in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police. Ohanian did not explicitly mention Floyd or the protests in his post, but made it clear that the recent events were behind the decision.

The venture capitalist said that he is urging the company to fill his board seat with a black candidate. He also committed the future gains of his Reddit stock to serve the black community, chiefly to curb racial hate.  Ohanian said he would begin with a $1 million pledge to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp.

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian said in a video on Instagram, included in the post, in which he recited his announcement.

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman posted a thread after Ohanian’s announcement, and said that the company would honor Ohanian’s request.

Reddit, founded by Ohanian and Huffman in 2005, is one of the top-20 most popular websites in the world. Ohanian said Friday that he started the site to “help people find a community and a sense of belonging.” But the site has long faced criticism for allowing racism and other forms of hate speech, as well as harmful misinformation, on its platform.

Ohanian has also shared in the controversy surrounding Reddit’s sexist and racist behavior. Five years ago, anger surrounding the decision to fire a popular Reddit employee resulted in a petition that ultimately forced then-CEO Ellen Pao to resign. Pao’s predecessor Yishan Wong later revealed that Ohanian was behind the decision to fire the employee, and accused him of scapegoating Pao rather than shouldering the responsibility for his own decision.

“When the hate-train started up against Pao, Alexis should have been out front and center saying very clearly ‘Ellen Pao did not make this decision, I did,’” Wong wrote in a 2015 Reddit thread. “Instead, he just sat back and let her take the heat.”

Ohanian’s latest announcement comes just days after a slew of popular Reddit threads closed off from new posts and responses, as moderators called out Reddit leadership for allowing hate speech on the platform. Some outside critics even called out CEO Steve Huffman, who cofounded Reddit with Ohanian, for not doing more to shut down hate speech on the platform.

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