Reddit's API changes spark widespread protests as communities go dark

Reddit's public subreddits have opted to make their communities private for 48 hours to protest API changes and highlight the platform's reliance on third-party apps and voluntary moderation.

Reddit's API changes spark widespread protests as communities go dark

Monday June 12, 2023,

3 min Read

Thousands of communities on Reddit are going dark to protest the company’s Application Programming Interface (API) changes. The community networking platform will charge third-party application developers to access its API, effective July 1, 2023.

The social network also decided to block ads on third-party apps and restrict them from posting sexually explicit content.

While its API access was free earlier, Reddit will now charge $0.24 for every thousand queries sent by third-party apps. The access is still free for developers sending less than 100 queries a minute.

With the new pricing changes, developers like Apollo for Reddit, rif, ReddPlanet, and Sync announced they will be shutting down.

Among 6,000-7,000 subreddits which have made their public accounts temporarily private—only accessible to members of the communities—include r/soccer, a popular football-themed forum which is among the top 1% of subreddits in terms of strength, with 4.5 million members.

Many other popular communities such as r/Apple, r/videos, and r/India also joined the blackout. Users who are not members of these subreddits won’t be able to see, post, or like threads for a minimum of 48 hours.

“r/apple is a private community: We stand in solidarity with numerous people who need access to the API including bot developers, people with accessibility needs (r/blind) and 3rd party app users (Apollo, Sync, etc.),” a popup message reads on r/Apple.

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Reddit relies on dedicated volunteers for free to moderate its content. These moderators play a crucial role in enforcing community guidelines, ensuring the quality of content, and fostering a positive atmosphere for users.

“Many of us rely on third-party apps to manage our communities effectively. Let's just rip the band-aid right off: in many cases these apps offer superior mod tools, customisation, streamlined interfaces, and other quality of life improvements that the official app does not offer,” said a post dedicated to facilitating coordination between moderators.

The incident also soured the company's relationship with its independent moderators.

"Over the years, we've experienced abrupt changes with minimal to no notice, as Reddit made changes or launched new features or tools with little to no notice, creating unforeseen repercussions and consequences in managing subreddits," as per a post by a moderators guild.

On the other hand, Facebook pays contractors such as Accenture to remove toxic and harmful content from its websites, and has spent $13 billion since 2016 on "safety and security".

In a bid to pacify the furore over the ban, CEO Steve Huffman hosted a Q&A session and offered clarifications. “Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” he posted.

Some users pointed out that the ban may be introduced to discourage companies like ChatGPT creator OpenAI, which cites Reddit posts as a source from where it mines data to train its generative AI models.

Reddit, founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, was launched on June 23, 2005. The platform quickly gained popularity as an online destination for sharing news, engaging in discussions, and creating communities.

Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, both University of Virginia graduates, developed Reddit as a platform for users to submit and vote on content. The name "Reddit" is a play on words, derived from "I read it" or "I've read it."

The platform became known for its active user participation, democratised content ranking through upvotes and downvotes, and independent moderators.

Edited by Kanishk Singh