Ellen Pao has stepped down from the social news site Reddit after a tumultuous eight months as interim CEO.
She will remain in an advisory role. "It became clear that the board and I had a different view on the ability of Reddit to grow this year," Pao told the New York Times. "Because of that, it made sense to bring someone in that shared the same view."
That someone is Steve Huffman, cofounder of Reddit, who will resume leadership as returning CEO.
"I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings."
Pao, who joined the site from the venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, announced her exit after a week of criticism from the Reddit community following the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, who coordinated the popular "IAmA" interview series. (Pao has since apologized for her lack of communication with the community.)
In June, a vocal faction of the Reddit community revolted after Pao banned several forums, including /r/FatPeopleHate, which were said to have harassed community members. Redditors launched a misogynist campaign comparing Pao to Hitler, sending her death threats and attempting to "Google-bomb" the CEO so searches for her name brought up images of swastikas. A petition gathered 150,000 signatures asking for Pao's dismissal.
In an announcement, Reddit board member and Y Combinator founder Sam Altman called the community's treatment of Pao "sickening."
"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," he wrote. "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."
"I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly on reddit," Ellen Pao announced in a post on subreddit r/self. "The good has been off-the-wall inspiring, and the ugly made me doubt humanity."
I just want to remind everyone that I am just another human; I have a family, and I have feelings. Everyone attacked on reddit is just another person like you and me. When people make something up to attack me or someone else, it spreads, and we eventually will see it. And we will feel bad, not just about what was said. Also because it undercuts the authenticity of reddit and shakes our faith in humanity.
"Ultimately," she added, "the board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining reddit's core principles."
But Altman kept the focus on Pao's work to improve the company, despite the doubts many may have about her success: "We are thankful for Ellen's many contributions to Reddit and the technology industry generally. She brought focus to chaos, recruited a world-class team of executives, and drove growth."
"It may be a great website but it will never be a truly great community."
User DylannStormRoof, a moderator of /r/CoonTown, a racist hate forum on Reddit, had a popular response to Altman's blog post before it was downvoted to the bottom of the page: "Pao! Right in the kisser."