AMAgeddon turns Reddit dark as Victoria Taylor fired from the social media site

3 Jul 2015

Popular subreddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) has been switched to private following the sudden, unexplained firing of Victoria Taylor, the site’s director of talent and key administrator.

Reports of Taylor’s dismissal started surfacing late last night and news that major subreddits were switching to private – rendering them inaccessible to users – in protest swiftly followed.

/r/IAMA, or Ask Me Anything, was the first to go, and its new settings will likely prove the most troubling for Reddit’s top brass. The subreddit, which consists of people with varying degrees of celebrity answering questions submitted by redditors in real time, hosted one of the most popular posts of all time – the AMA with US President Barack Obama – and is perhaps the site’s greatest pull for non-users.

Taylor’s departure, referred to as AMAgeddon on the site, has been felt keenly by Reddit’s moderators, predominantly volunteers, who view her firing as a kick in the face.

According to AMA moderator karmanaut, “for /r/IAMA to work the way it currently works, we need Victoria. Without her, we need to figure out a different way for it to work.”

Taylor had amassed a loyal following among moderators, largely due to her accessibility. Taylor had a reputation for being one of the few administrators who listened to, supported and helped moderators, and for being tenacious in ensuring that those giving AMAs really were who they said they were.

Numerous moderators cite her as the reason for the global success of the AMAs, and question how Reddit plans to proceed without her strong guidance at the helm of the immensely popular subreddit.

The graphic those trying to access the /r/IAMA subreddit are seeing

This graphic greets anyone trying to access the /r/IAMA subreddit, among others

Taylor has not given an official statement on her firing, but, speaking in a Reddit thread about her departure, said she is “dazed”.

Reddit has confirmed that Taylor has been dismissed, but no official statement has been released from the site, either.

In a late night update from Gawker, a possible reason for the firing may have surfaced.

In what Gawker refers to as ‘allegedly a now-deleted post’, Marc Bodnick, Reddit’s business and community leader, suggested on popular, community-run question and answer site Quora that Taylor’s dismissal may be related to her reluctance to commercialise AMA content.

Regardless of reason, Reddit is sure to take a hit over the coming days, with numerous subreddits switching to private in solidarity with the /r/IAMA thread. That list includes /r/music, /r/askreddit, /r/gaming, /r/todayilearned and /r/movies, each of which has several million followers.

While not all subreddits are created equal, and not all losses will be felt as keenly, with 100s of subreddits now set to private (full list here), that’s one hell of a drop in pageviews.

Reddit has to be asking itself if getting rid of Taylor even approaches being worth it.

Reddit image, via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic