While vitriol against the Reddit chief executive Ellen Pao dominated the site in the weeks leading up to her resignation on Friday, in the hours after her departure discussions centered on whether this was the company’s plan and how responsible users were for her ousting.
Tensions over the growth of the social-forum website – Reddit now attracts 164 million readers a month – were on full display last week after the company fired Victoria Taylor, its director of talent who ran the site’s popular Ask Me Anything sessions.
Reddit quickly filled with anti-Pao sentiments, and about 300 subreddits were closed by moderators in protest. An online petition to dismiss Pao collected more than 210,000 signatures.
Many users drew a direct connection between those actions and Pao’s resignation.
One Reddit user, ameoba, wrote: “Like primitive tribesmen, convinced their sacrifices made the sun rise, our collective shitposting successfully removed an interim CEO.”
Said user meowdy: “I feel empty. I don’t know if Reddit will ever again pump out this much drama in such a short time frame. The firing of Pao was the jumping of the shark.”
Pao’s resignation announcement acknowledged the personal attacks she had received on the site, which reportedly included death threats.
“In my eight months as reddit’s CEO, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly on reddit,” Pao wrote. “The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity.”
Steve Huffman, a Reddit founder and former CEO, will return to the top job. In a post announcing Huffman’s return, board member Sam Altman said he was sickened by some of things that had been written on the site about Pao.
“People are still people even if there is internet between you,” he said.
While such messages were significantly less prevalent on the site following Pao’s resignation, they could be found on corners of the site. Nazi symbols, expletives and crude photoshops of Pao dominated the r/iAmA_troll_AmA subreddit.
Threads that had been used to attack Pao, like r/CircleJerk, had a celebratory if not particularly aggressive tone. The r/Ellen_Pao_Hate thread remained mild, with few active users or updates.
In response to similar questions, Altman said: “It’s simply not true – not sure how to better put it to bed.”
He also agreed with a user who said Pao “took the high road”.
“She really did,” Altman wrote in a Reddit post. “She’s been very helpful to me so far, for which I am extremely grateful.”
Reddit hired Pao in April 2013 and she took over as interim chief executive in November 2014. She became the figurehead for gender discrimination in Silicon Valley, during a lawsuit against her former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
Pao lost the case but is said to be considering further legal action.
This article was written by Amanda Holpuch in New York, for theguardian.com on Saturday 11th July 2015 17.56 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010