Why Are Thousands of Subreddits Going Dark?

    16 June 2023

    Reddit is a social media website where people with common interests can have conversations by posting comments, videos and images. Posts are grouped into communities, called subreddits, based on different subjects.

    Thousands of popular Reddit communities, including groups about technology, gaming, and music, locked out their users recently in protest. People who organize the communities, called moderators, are protesting the company's plan to charge for access to its data.

    Starting next month, Reddit said third-party app developers, people who make apps but do not work for Reddit, will have to pay for its application programming interface (API). It is a programming system that permits a data provider and end-user to communicate with each other.

    FILE - Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)
    FILE - Reddit app is seen on a smartphone in this illustration taken, July 13, 2021. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

    Costly to developers

    Reddit plans to charge developers that require higher usage limits $0.24 for every 1,000 API calls or less than $1 per user every month.

    One such third-party app is the Apollo app. It is popular among Reddit users as a way to get content from the official Reddit page.

    Apollo said that with their current usage, the charges would cost more than $20 million a year. And the developer added that the costly charges have "made it impossible" to continue offering the service.

    Christian Selig, the creator of the Apollo app for Reddit, said that the service will close on June 30.

    Why is Reddit making the change?

    One of the reasons that Reddit is making the change is generative artificial intelligence (AI). Generative AI can create new content, like images, videos, music, text, or other forms of data.

    Conversations on Reddit have a lot of data that can be used to train generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. While some of this data can be collected in an unstructured way, Reddit's API makes it easier for companies to directly find and collect the data.

    Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman told The New York Times in April that Reddit's data "is really valuable." And he said he does not want to "give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free."

    Who is affected by the Reddit blackout?

    Thousands of subreddits, including r/Music, r/gaming, r/science, and r/todayilearned, are protesting the move. They all have more than 30 million followers.

    Unlike most other social media services, Reddit is heavily dependent on community moderators who police their subreddits for free to deal with offensive or illegal content.

    And the moderators planned a blackout during which their pages will go private. That means millions of users will be left without access to those communities.

    Huffman noted the anger among many moderators of Reddit communities. But he said the company cannot let companies use large amounts of its data for free and Reddit needs to be able to support itself.

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Reuters reported this story. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    access n. a way of being able to use or get something

    app n. a computer program that performs a special function

    interface n. a system that controls the way information is shown to a computer user and the way the user is able to work with the computer

    generate v. to produce (something) or cause (something) to be produced

    blackout n. a situation in which some kind of information are deliberately kept from the public

    substitute n. a person or thing that takes the place of someone or something else