What’s going on with the Reddit protests?

15 Jun 2023

Image: © daboost/Stock.adobe.com

The protests could continue indefinitely as neither side shows signs of backing down, while some claim their search results have been impacted as a result.

A wave of protests are continuing on Reddit, with multiple subreddits being restricted or changed to private as a response to API changes.

The social media platform is planning to monetise access to its APIs, which has been criticised by developers and users. An AMA (Ask Me Anything) session from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman failed to sway those opposing the changes.

Both sides of the debate are refusing to back down, with the protests set to continue and Reddit pushing forward with its planned changes. There are also rumours that the protests have impacted more than the platform itself, with search results being affected.

How long will the protests go on for?

The Reddit protests included almost 6,600 subreddits going “dark” – private or restricted – in response to the API changes earlier this week, according to a website called Reddark which is monitoring the situation.

Some of these forums said they would go dark for only 48 hours, while others hinted that the protest would continue indefinitely.

Today (15 June), more than 5,400 subreddits are still involved in the protest, signalling that more moderators have decided to continue the protest for longer.

Has Reddit’s CEO responded to the protests?

While the protest has been widespread for Reddit’s platform, CEO Huffman has called for calm among his staff and urged them that the protests will end eventually.

“Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well,” Huffman said in a memo shared by The Verge. “We have not seen any significant revenue impact so far and we will continue to monitor.”

Huffman doubled down on the API decision in this memo and claimed that the only “long-term solution” is improving Reddit.

Have the Reddit protests impacted Google Search?

There are rumours circulating that the shutdown of so many subreddits has had an impact on search results. This is due to a trick that some users do when searching on sites like Google.

Some users add “Reddit” to the end of their search queries in order to get linked to responses on the popular platform.

Users claim that many searches are leading them to subreddits which are now restricted or private, preventing them from viewing responses that could answer their search queries.

Some are being harsh about this result, with one user claiming that this is the only way of getting “actually relevant results”.

Is there an importance to APIs?

In the case of social media sites like Twitter and Reddit, APIs allow third parties to obtain publicly available data from these platforms, which can be used to create external apps with various uses.

But APIs are used for more than just entertainment apps or alternative ways to browse a platform. Researchers are able to collect website data through APIs, providing a useful means to acquire statistics for various projects.

In February, Dr Jon-Patrick Allem of the University of Southern California said the removal of a free API would delay the gathering of potential knowledge and “ultimately reduce the number of participants working to understand the world around us”.

APIs are also being used as a way to share new technology among organisations, with a notable example being AI.

In March, ChatGPT creator OpenAI revealed its own API to help businesses integrate the advanced AI chatbot directly into their websites, apps and services.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic