“What did you do?”: Reddit co-founder resigns from board to make room for black talent in tech

Reddit co-founder and former chief Alexis Ohanian during his 2009 Ted talk. Source: Ted.

Reddit co-founder and former chief Alexis Ohanian has resigned from his position on the social media giant’s board to make room for a black leader at the business.

In a statement, Ohanian urged the other board members to fill the seat with a black candidate — a request Reddit’s current chief Steve Huffman has said will be honoured.

“It is long overdue to do the right thing,” Ohanian said in a statement.

“I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country.”

The founder is married to tennis legend Serena Williams, and the pair have a daughter together.

“I’m writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘what did you do?’,” Ohanian said.

He also pledged to use his future gains on Reddit stock to serve the black community “chiefly to curb racial hate”, and has started out by donating US$1 million to Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp.

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop,” he wrote.

Reddit is a little less high-profile than fellow social media pioneers Twitter and Facebook, which have been at the centre of a media storm over the former’s decision to flag comments from Donald Trump as harmful, and the latter’s inaction on the same comments.

However, a note from Huffman to Reddit employees on June 1 that stated the platform “[does] not tolerate hate, racism and violence” prompted criticism, with many suggesting Reddit does, in fact, provide a space for people to share racist views.

In the more recent post, Huffman appears to acknowledge this disconnect, saying there is an “unacceptable gap between our beliefs as people and a company, and what you see in our content policy”.

Reddit will be adjusting its content policy, the chief executive said, “to include a vision for Reddit and its communities to aspire to, a statement on hate, the context for the rules, and a principle that Reddit isn’t to be used as a weapon”.

Having co-founded Reddit back in 2005, Ohanian stepped down from day-to-day duties in 2018, but kept his seat on the board.

He now spends most of his time working on Initialized Capital, the early-stage venture capital fund he co-founded in 2011.

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