Ellen Pao Says the Trolls Are Winning

By Kaila Hale-Stern on at

Reddit’s former CEO Ellen Pao wrote a melancholy op-ed about the harassment she faced and the overall state of Internet communities. Her outlook is pretty bleak.

In the piece, Pao connects the treatment she received by Reddit mobs with overall statistics on internet bullying:

Fully 40 per cent of online users have experienced bullying, harassment and intimidation, according to Pew Research. Some 70 per cent of users between age 18 and 24 say they’ve been the target of harassers.

She doesn’t say how the battleground can be won back, though it appears that Reddit had been making an effort under her leadership to do more on the troll-fighting front:

We doubled the size of our community-management team. We brought in two experienced managers to improve our operations, training and overall leadership. We added to our engineering team. We hired a product manager to help develop tools to help our volunteer moderators.

It’s clear from the reaction to the firing of AMA coordinator Victoria Taylor that these actions had not been effective nor fast enough. As a former internet moderator, I can say that robust teams of well-trained humans and improved tools are absolutely essential, and perhaps the only viable “fixes.” But ultimately you’re still only a drop in the bucket, having to respond to reports of abuse after the fact, and human errors can blow up into massive community melt-downs. This is the lesson that Reddit is learning the hard way, and Pao now knows as a casualty of “war.”

You can read her op-ed in full here: Ellen Pao: Trolls are winning battle for the Internet