Reddit starts removing moderators behind the latest protests

Reddit has started removing moderator teams managing subreddits that switched the labeling on their communities to Not Safe For Work (NSFW) in the latest protests against the site. In addition to applying an age gate for desktop viewers and restricting access on mobile devices to logged-in users in the Reddit app, Reddit also doesn’t show ads on subreddits tagged NSFW. This cuts into its ability to monetize them, which is a major part of Reddit’s disputed push to charge apps for using the API.

CEO Steve Huffman told me in an interview last week, “90-plus percent of Reddit users are on our platform, contributing, and are monetized either through ads or Reddit Premium. Why would we subsidize this small group? Why would we effectively pay them to use Reddit but not everybody else who also contributes to Reddit?”

“Moderators incorrectly marking a community as NSFW is a violation of both our Content Policy and Moderator Code of Conduct,” Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said to The Verge. He declined to comment when asked if Reddit removed the mods.

According to a post in r/ModCoord (moderator coordination), moderators of r/MildlyInteresting moved forward on Tuesday with changing the sub to NSFW after a user vote. In making that change, r/MildlyInteresting followed the steps of other subreddits that went NSFW recently, including r/interestingasfuck and r/TIHI (Thanks I Hate It).

However, according to the now-former r/MildlyInteresting mod that wrote the post, just after they switched the subreddit over, they were logged out of their account and locked out. It quickly became clear that Reddit-employed administrators (as opposed to the mods, who don’t work for Reddit) were involved:

Following this, another mod posted our update instead. Right after, the u/ModCodeofConduct [a Reddit admin account] account removed the post and flipped the sub back to restricted instead of public. Then, the second moderator was also logged out of their account and locked out. Other mods tried to re-approve the post, one of them was promptly logged out and locked out as well.

After that, according to the former r/MildlyInteresting mod, the entire mod team was removed from the subreddit. As I write this, r/MildlyInteresting, which has more than 22 million subscribers, says it is currently unmoderated. The mod says the entire team received a 7-day suspension.

It’s apparently not just r/MildlyInteresting. Subs including r/interestingasfuck (11 million subscribers), r/TIHI (1.7 million subscribers), and r/ShittyLifeProTips (1.6 million subscribers), which had all gone NSFW or loosened their rules, are currently unmoderated.

Removal of mods is perhaps Reddit’s biggest action yet against its moderators, who are unpaid volunteers that sometimes dedicate years of their lives to managing these communities. Some mods said they felt threatened by messages sent by the company last week indicating it would unseat moderators who didn’t work to reopen their communities, and now that it’s a reality, the effects on those communities could be massive.