Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian announced Friday he has resigned from the company's board and urged the remaining executives to fill his seat with a black candidate. Ohanian, who is married to tennis legend Serena Williams, vowed to use his remaining Reddit stock to help the back community, beginning with a $1 million donation to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp.
"I co-founded Reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging," Ohanian, 37, wrote in a post on his website. "It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country. I'm writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: 'What did you do?'" He then explained his plan, later adding that he believes resigning can be an "act of leadership from people in power right now." He also asked anyone "fighting to fix our broken nation" not to stop.
View this post on Instagram
Ohanian's decision came after former CEO Ellen Pao, who resigned from the site in 2015 due to a revolt from users over the changes she made, openly criticized Reddit for tolerating white supremacism and hate speech in the past. She shared a new letter from current CEO Steve Huffman, in which he told employees the company does "not tolerate hate, racism, and violence, and while we have work to do to fight these on our platform, our values are clear." Pao called Huffman out for the message.
"I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence," Pao wrote. "So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don't get to say BLM when Reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long." She later added, "No Soundcloud so please: Read antiracism books. Donate to grassroots efforts. When you see something, do something."
Although Reddit was more proactive in taking down hate speech when compared to similar online communities, it was still criticized for keeping the subreddit r/The_Donald active. The subreddit, which showed support for President Donald Trump, has a long history of sharing racist and misogynistic content, as well as hosting conspiracy theories. It was not until June 2019 that the subreddit was finally quarantined by Reddit administrators after mounting complaints and several moderators were removed in February 2020.
Following Pao's criticisms, some of Reddit's most popular communities went silent as a protest for the site's hate speech policies, reports The Verge. Some of the sites went silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, sparking the nationwide protests of police brutality. Other communities went private. Some of the subreddits that took part in protest this week include r/AskReddit, r/NFL, and r/EDM.
Ohanian married Williams in November 2017, about two months after their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian was born. On May 30, Williams responded to the protests by sharing a video of a young girl speaking about how unfair it is for her to be treated differently due to the color of her skin. "A lot of us growing up were taught to pray 'Let thy kingdom come,' this is what I continue to pray for in addition to so many that have been hurt/killed, or simply traumatized by how people of a different color are treated," Williams wrote on Instagram.