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Reddit CEO Ellen Pao resigns amid turmoil 'by mutual agreement,' founder returns

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Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao resigned her position today "by mutual agreement," and Reddit founder and previous CEO Steve Huffman is taking the helm, according to an announcement posted on Reddit from board member and president of Y Combinator Sam Altman.

Pao's resignation comes in the wake of recent turmoil for the popular site, after the surprise firing of Reddit's director of communications, Victoria Taylor.

Last week, several Reddit communities, including Reddit Gaming, became private, effectively preventing the public from visiting those areas of the site. Volunteer moderators for hundreds of subReddits cited unhappiness with Reddit management and Taylor's firing. They later reverted to their previous public positions and welcomed the public back.

A Change.org petition calling for Pao's firing topped 16,000 signatures in the wake of the uprising. That number now stands at more than 213,000.

"Ellen K. Pao is a lawyer and the Chief Executive Officer of the Internet company Reddit Inc," the petition reads. "She was appointed interim CEO of Reddit Inc in November 2014 and Reddit entered into a new age of censorship. Pao lost her gender discrimination case against venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins, on March 27, 2015. A vast majority of the Reddit community believes that Pao, 'a manipulative individual who will sue her way to the top', has overstepped her boundaries and fears that she will run Reddit into the ground. Alternative sites to Reddit.com have sprung up and have received vast amounts of traffic within the recent months."

"The communication between the Reddit administration team to its subReddit moderators is very lacking and rather unsettling after years of empty promises to the moderators to improve and provide tools to help run subReddits, and ultimately Reddit as a whole, smoothly."

Pao apologized for actions that alienated users and promised reforms.

"We screwed up," she said. "Not just on July 2 but also over the past several years."

In an interview with Recode, Pao reiterated that she resigned and was not fired and would not say that the recent controversy was the reason for her resignation. Rather, she said, it was over a disagreement that spanned, in part, Reddit's growth potential.

"They had a more aggressive view than I did," Pao told Recode.

The Reddit post announcing Pao's resignation thanked her for her contributions to the site.

"We are thankful for Ellen’s many contributions to Reddit and the technology industry generally," Altman wrote. "She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth. She brought a face to Reddit that changed perceptions, and is a pioneer for women in the tech industry. She will remain as an advisor to the board through the end of 2015. I look forward to seeing the great things she does beyond that."

Altman also reserved praise for moderators, who he said are "what makes Reddit great. The Reddit team, now with Steve, wants to do more for you. You deserve better moderation tools and better communication from the admins."

"People are still people even if there is Internet between you"

Altman continues, saying that users "deserve clarity about what the content policy of Reddit is going to be" and promise to "create guidelines to both preserve the integrity of Reddit and to maintain Reddit as the place where the most open and honest conversations with the entire world can happen."

But he also admonished some Redditors' postings about Pao.

"As a closing note," the post reads, "it was sickening to see some of the things Redditors wrote about Ellen. … The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you.

"If the Reddit community cannot learn to balance authenticity and compassion, it may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community. Steve’s great challenge as CEO … will be continuing the work Ellen started to drive this forward."

Altman is now fielding questions in a Reddit AmA.

Pao assumed the role of CEO last November after its previous CEO, Yishan Wong, stepped down in the wake of a controversy about private, stolen celebrity images being posted on Reddit.

Reddit, owned by Condé Nast Publications since 2006, is the No. 33-ranked website globally according to Alexa.com, and No. 10 in the United States, from which it draws more than half of its readership.