Reddit Moderators Are Protesting—Here’s Why

This is a free excerpt from one of Shortform’s Articles. We give you all the important information you need to know about current events and more.

Don't miss out on the whole story. Sign up for a free trial here .

Why are Reddit moderators protesting? What new changes does Reddit plan to make? How have similar situations panned out in the past?

Volunteer Reddit moderators are protesting a change to the platform’s policies that would potentially put an end to most third-party Reddit apps. Reddit contends the change is necessary to increase advertising revenue and reduce overhead.

Here’s a look at the proposed changes, how it would affect Reddit moderators, and examples of similar situations from the past.

Reddit Policy Changes

On June 12, 2023, many “communities” on the social media platform Reddit restricted access to their content as a way to protest policy changes that the platform recently announced. Reddit communities, also known as subreddits, are much like discussion forums that host posts on a particular topic and are facilitated by volunteer Reddit moderators. 

Initially, the participating Reddit communities planned to restrict access for only 48 hours, but some of the most popular ones decided to extend their outage indefinitely, hoping to put more pressure on Reddit executives to revise the policy changes before they’re scheduled to take effect on July 1.

In an added twist, a hacker group that stole confidential business information from Reddit back in February is threatening to publish that data if Reddit doesn’t capitulate to the protest—in addition to paying the $4.5 million ransom that the hackers had already demanded.

What’s the Policy Change They’re Protesting?

The key issue that Reddit’s moderators object to is the new price Reddit will be charging for access to its API, or application programming interface, the software that enables third-party apps to access Reddit’s data. Previously, Reddit made its API available for free, unlike most other platforms, which charge a fee for access. 

The decision to start charging for access to the API is part of Reddit’s strategy for transitioning from running on venture capital to becoming a self-sustaining business.

Why Is the Change a Problem?

Not only are third-party Reddit app developers disappointed because they’ll have to shut down their apps, but many of Reddit’s volunteer moderators say the third-party apps are so much better than Reddit’s own interface that they wouldn’t be able to do their job as moderators without them

What Will Come of the Protest?

Reddit seems committed to implementing their API policy changes in spite of the protest. They expect the subreddits that restricted access to come back online soon. They have also suggested that if it doesn’t happen soon enough, they may take steps to remove and replace the moderators who are participating in the protest. Here are some examples of similar situations from the past.


Like Reddit, Tumblr was a social media platform that struggled to make the transition from startup venture to profitable platform. After launching in 2007, Tumblr’s traffic had grown to 84 million posts per day by 2014. In 2013, the Tumblr startup was acquired by Yahoo, and has since changed hands a few more times. 

The common theme is that each owner has tried to make the platform more appealing to advertisers by implementing tighter and more centralized controls over what gets displayed. Since 2018 the company has cracked down on sexually explicit posts in particular. These changes might be popular with advertisers, but they’ve been poorly received by users.

Wizards of the Coast

Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast (WOTC), a game company whose most popular products include Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, considered a policy revision very similar to Reddit’s. 

They had previously licensed all their content under a “ShareAlike” Open Gaming License (OGL), meaning that users could freely borrow creative elements from their games to create derivative works as long as the derivative works were also shared under the same terms. This promoted the creation of third-party content for WOTC games and contributed to their popularity.

WOTC considered a revision to their OGL that would have required third parties to register the content that they created with the company, empowered the company to censor content that they found objectionable, and forced entities who earned income on their content above a certain threshold to pay a royalty.

The revision was leaked to the public before WOTC announced any official changes. When customers heard about it, they expressed their disapproval by seeking out alternative products from the company’s competitors. To quell the protest, WOTC made an official announcement that they would not make any immediate changes to their OGL, and would solicit customer feedback before making any changes.

Prognosis for Reddit

As the Tumblr case study illustrates, appealing to advertisers at the cost of alienating users is a real hazard for social media platforms. And in Reddit’s case, this hazard is amplified by their dependence on volunteer moderators—especially right now, when AI tools are making it easier to flood social media with low-value posts, making content moderators all the more important.

Thus, if Reddit insists on implementing the policy changes that it announced, and if the impact on third-party Reddit apps is as severe as the protesters anticipate, it could send the company into a decline, much like Tumblr. It may be too late for Reddit to respond as WOTC did, since, unlike WOTC, they can’t claim that their proposed changes were just a leaked draft of an idea that they’re not going to implement.

Reddit Moderators Are Protesting—Here’s Why

Want to fast-track your learning? With Shortform, you’ll gain insights you won't find anywhere else .

Here's what you’ll get when you sign up for Shortform :

  • Complicated ideas explained in simple and concise ways
  • Smart analysis that connects what you’re reading to other key concepts
  • Writing with zero fluff because we know how important your time is

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.