Ellen Pao, the interim CEO of Reddit who took over the site last year, has officially stepped down. "Ellen Pao resigned from Reddit today by mutual agreement. I’m delighted to announce that Steve Huffman, founder and the original Reddit CEO, is returning as CEO," said Reddit board member Sam Altman in a statement. Huffman co-founded Reddit with Alexis Ohanian, who left the company for a time before returning as executive chair. According to Altman, Ohanian will now work with Huffman under the title of "co-founder."
Altman reiterated promises that Pao made in an apology last week, promising better moderation tools and communication with the site's administrators. He also said that Reddit users "deserve clarity about what the content policy of Reddit is going to be," and that administrators would create guidelines "to both preserve the integrity of Reddit and to maintain Reddit as the place where the most open and honest conversations with the entire world can happen." This is likely in response to an anti-harassment policy that saw five subreddits banned last month after complaints.
"If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community."
Given Reddit's generally laissez-faire attitude toward the content on its site, the decision enraged a subset of site members. Much of this rage was aimed directly at Pao, sometimes with particularly vicious racism and misogyny — which Altman commented on in his statement. "As a closing note, it was sickening to see some of the things Redditors wrote about Ellen," he wrote. "The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is internet between you. If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community."
Pao came under criticism last week after the abrupt firing of an employee led to widespread blackouts across the platform, and a petition for her resignation has gained popularity since then. In an interview with The New York Times, she attributed her decision to internal disagreements. "It became clear that the board and I had a different view on the ability of Reddit to grow this year," she said. "Because of that, it made sense to bring someone in that shared the same view."
Unlike Huffman, who is now leading Reddit for the foreseeable future, Pao was never presented as a permanent CEO. After joining the site in 2013, she stepped up temporarily after the departure of former head Yishan Wong. Pao will apparently remain a board adviser until the end of 2015. "Ellen has done a phenomenal job, especially in the last few months," Altman told the Times.