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Ellen Pao says 'we screwed up' and promises to make Reddit better

Reddit CEO Ellen Pao has written a note apologizing for the site's communication issues and longterm failure to deliver on promises made to its community. "We screwed up," she writes. "Not just on July 2nd, but also over the past several years."

"It will take time for us to deliver concrete results."

Though Pao doesn't entirely address the variety of issues that led to many sections of Reddit's community shutting down over the weekend, she does call out a series of changes being implemented to make the site a better place. That includes new tools for moderation and identifying Reddit employees who moderators can voice their concerns to. "We are grateful for all you do for Reddit," Pao writes to the site's moderators, "and the buck stops with me."

Response to Pao's note isn't particularly warm, with many asking why Pao didn't just speak to the Reddit community in the first place ("It was hard to communicate on the site, because my comments were being downvoted," she writes).

The community is also voicing concern over what will become of the promises Pao outlines in this note. Pao is well aware that the Reddit community is unlikely to believe any changes until they see them —  "I know these are just words," she writes — and there's only so much the site's team can provide today. "It will take time for us to deliver concrete results," she writes. But Pao clearly wants the community to understand that she and the rest of the Reddit staff have heard their concerns, and the note is a straightforward statement of failures to do so in the past.

Reddit has continued to shift its attitudes under Pao, with recent changes leading to the site banning harassment, revenge porn, and stolen nude photos. Last month, the site began banning hateful communities, including one called "Fat People Hate." This has led to some undue backlash against Pao as a supposed hinderance to free speech, but the changes are meant to make Reddit a better and friendlier site. Today's note is in some ways another piece to these changes, with Reddit saying that it's time to give back to its community with new tools and resources for moderators.

The full text of Pao's note is reprinted below:

We screwed up. Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven’t communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven’t delivered on them. When you’ve had feedback or requests, we haven’t always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit.

Today, we acknowledge this long history of mistakes. We are grateful for all you do for reddit, and the buck stops with me. We are taking three concrete steps:

Tools: We will improve tools, not just promise improvements, building on work already underway. u/deimorzand u/weffey will be working as a team with the moderators on what tools to build and then delivering them.

Communication: u/krispykrackers is trying out the new role of Moderator Advocate. She will be the contact for moderators with reddit and will help figure out the best way to talk more often. We’re also going to figure out the best way for more administrators, including myself, to talk more often with the whole community.

Search: We are providing an option for moderators to default to the old version of search to support your existing moderation workflows. Instructions for setting this default are here.

I know these are just words, and it may be hard for you to believe us. I don't have all the answers, and it will take time for us to deliver concrete results. I mean it when I say we screwed up, and we want to have a meaningful ongoing discussion. I know we've drifted out of touch with the community as we've grown and added more people, and we want to connect more. I and the team are committed to talking more often with the community, starting now.

Thank you for listening. Please share feedback here. Our team is ready to respond to comments.