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Why Reddit Moderators Are Protesting, Gaining Support from Crypto Communities

4 mins
Updated by Michael Washburn
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In Brief

  • Reddit's planned API changes have sparked protests among its volunteer moderators.
  • The uproar garnered broad support from various crypto subreddits on the platform.
  • Despite the backlash, Reddit is set to implement the contentious changes from July 1.
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Reddit, the widely acclaimed “front page of the internet,” is currently in turmoil. The online platform’s moderators and thousands of communities are uniting in protest against planned changes to the site’s data access policy.

This significant move has caught the attention of Reddit’s vast cryptocurrency communities, resulting in an unlikely alliance between the two disparate entities.

Reddit Moderators Protest Against API Changes

Reddit has established itself as a popular social media platform through the foundation of countless diverse subreddits. Volunteer moderators operate these forums, each focusing on a unique topic. However, this democratic governance model, representing the freedom ethos of the internet, now faces potential threats.

On June 12, protests erupted at Reddit, reaching a peak between June 12 and June 14, when over 7,000 subreddits went private. These include larger subreddits like r/music, r/gaming, r/science, and r/todayilearned. The crux of the issue lies in Reddit’s decision to start charging third-party developers for access to its Application Programming Interface (API).

Christian Selig, the creator of Apollo, claims that developers would have to pay $12,000 for every 50 million API requests. Therefore, the costs of running his popular third-party browsing app could exceed $20 million annually ​under this new scheme.

Many developers also see the initiative as the end of third-party apps that have accessed the platform’s data for free​.

“You’re potentially looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills I would get from Reddit for people that I couldn’t make a single more dollar off of because they already paid my old operating costs. And that’s where it gets really tricky,” affirmed Selig.

Moreover, the issue with eliminating third-party applications stems from their essential role in providing accessibility features. Moderators with disabilities heavily depend on these features. Still, Reddit has assured that it will enhance its native accessibility functionalities.

The company clarified that third-party applications primarily developed for users with disabilities would be granted an exception from the steep API charges. However, many Reddit moderators are not happy.

“A multibillion-dollar corporation forcing disabled people (including the profoundly disabled) to simply “learn new tools,” and to stop using the accessibility tools they’re used to – the tools they depend on – to access/moderate the communities they depend on – is cruel,”  wrote PotRoastPotato.

Crypto Subreddits Join the Protests in Solidarity

One of the major driving forces behind Reddit’s decision is the potential value of its data for generative AI. Reddit, acting as a platform where all things on the internet gather and receive constant updates, possesses data that could transform into a gold mine for AI algorithms.

Still, developers argue that Reddit is pulling the plug on third-party apps, leading to the mass protest by subreddit moderators​​.

An interesting dimension to this story is the robust support the protests have garnered from crypto communities. Crypto-centric subreddits like r/cryptocurrency, r/bitcoin, and r/ethereum joined the blackout. These subreddits went private or shifted to read-only alongside approximately 7,000 other communities.

Reddit Moderators Protest Key Statistics
Reddit Key Statistics. Source: Finances Online

However, not all crypto-related subreddits participated in the blackout. Subreddits such as r/altcoin, r/NFT, and r/dogecoin remained fully online, providing a platform for crypto enthusiasts to continue their discussions​.

The blackout has led to a shift in the online discourse, with many Reddit users moving to Twitter and decentralized Twitter alternatives like Bluesky and Nostr.

There has also been a surge in activity on Discord’s social messaging platform, with many crypto-enthusiast users and NFT projects finding a home there. For instance, a Discord server called r/CryptoCurrency has seen a massive influx of users during the Reddit blackout​​.

Reddit API Changes Go Live on July 1

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman’s response to the backlash has been to consider changing the site’s content moderator removal policy. The goal is to allow regular users to vote out moderators if their decisions are unpopular.

“If you’re a politician or a business owner, you are accountable to your constituents. So a politician needs to be elected, and a business owner can be fired by its shareholders. And I think, on Reddit, the analogy is closer to the landed gentry: The people who get there first get to stay there and pass it down to their descendants, and that is not democratic,” said Huffman.

However, his remarks have been met with even more skepticism. Some see it as a threat, as evidenced by a statement from the moderators of r/gaming​​.

“Our entire community is supporting us against this change. It feels good to be able to have the power to say: ‘We will not continue to moderate our communities if you push these changes through.’ If it’s almost the entire website, would they destroy what they’ve built up in all these communities, just to push through this highly unpopular change that both the mods and users of Reddit are overwhelmingly against?,” said one Reddit moderator.

Despite the ongoing debate, Reddit released a full roadmap of the upcoming changes. Titled “Accessibility Updates to Mod Tools: Part 1,” it details that changes will begin on July 1.

Still, the social media giant promised to share another update on June 30.

  • How mods access Moderation tools (by July 1)
  • ModQueue (view, action posts, and comments, filter and sort content, add removal reasons, and bulk action items) (by July 1)
  • ModMail (inbox, read, reply to messages, create new mail, private mod note) (by July 1)
  • User Settings (manage mods, approved users, muted users, banned users) (by July 1)
  • Community Settings (late July)
  • Ban Evasion Settings (late July)
  • Additional User Settings (late July)
  • Remaining mod surfaces (August)

As the battle between Reddit and moderators rages on, third-party apps and AI in its ecosystem are hotly debated. The crypto communities’ support underscores Reddit’s importance as a space for critical cryptocurrency discussions.

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Bary Rahma
Bary Rahma is a senior journalist at BeInCrypto, where she covers a broad spectrum of topics including crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs), artificial intelligence (AI), tokenization of real-world assets (RWA), and the altcoin market. Prior to this, she was a content writer for Binance, producing in-depth research reports on cryptocurrency trends, market analysis, decentralized finance (DeFi), digital asset regulations, blockchain, initial coin offerings (ICOs), and tokenomics. Bary also...