This week, thousands of Reddit discussion boards went black to protest a new policy that would charge third-party apps to access data, raising concerns about content moderation and accessibility.
A boycott tracker and Twitch feed showed over 8,000 subreddits offline on Tuesday afternoon. Participants included the online discussion site’s r/funny, r/music, and r/todayilearned pages.
“Reddit is killing third-party applications (and itself),” subreddits said on the platform’s site.
Reddit’s latest API modifications include the increased fees.
The blackout, which began Monday, claims Reddit’s reforms would remove major means of customizing the network, which depends heavily on volunteer moderators. Subreddit “mods” employ non-official apps to remove spam and offensive content and increase accessibility.
Reddit, a subsidiary of New York-based Advance Publications, says allowing huge, high-usage third-party developers to access its data is too expensive. The business also stresses that the new costs would only apply to approved apps with high consumption restrictions, and most API users will not have to pay.
What’s API? How is Reddit altering third-party app access?
APIs allow computer applications to interact. Third parties have utilized Reddit’s open API to request data and develop platform-compatible apps.
Reddit introduced changes to its API access policies earlier this year. Reddit will charge higher-usage third-party apps starting July 1.
“Reddit needs to be a self-sustaining business, and to do that, we can no longer subsidize commercial entities that require large-scale data use,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman stated in a Friday AMA.
The business claimed non-commercial, accessibility-focused third-party apps would continue to be free, and the decision is based on usage numbers. Reddit said that moderator tools and bots will have free API access.
Why are subreddits protesting?
Redditors fear losing long-used third-party resources due to Reddit’s API updates. Apollo and Reddit Is Fun, popular third-party applications, intend to shut down at the end of the month owing to API update expenses, with Apollo developer Christian Selig estimating $20 million a year.
Experts say Reddit’s volunteer moderators who use these and comparable applications will be hit most.
“While Reddit has promised that moderation tools will not be affected by changes to the API, many moderators rely on third party apps and access to data archives to effectively do their work,” said Sarah Gilbert, postdoctoral associate at Cornell University and Citizens and Technology Lab research manager, citing moderator burnout and retention risks.
Gilbert noted that API access helps moderators protect communities and “more quickly respond to spam, bigotry, and harassment.” She stated screen readers need third-party programs since the Reddit app is not accessible to the visually impaired.
Reddit blackout end date?
The organizers of this week’s blackout indicated certain subreddits will resume in 48 hours.
“Unless the issue is adequately addressed, since many moderators aren’t able to put in the work they do with the poor tools available through the official app,” read one widely-circulated Reddit post about the protest, according to The Verge.
“This isn’t something any of us do lightly: we do what we do because we love Reddit, and we truly believe this change will make it impossible to keep doing what we love,” the article added.
Huffman acknowledged moderators’ input in Friday’s AMA, saying Reddit recognizes “when you and your communities take action to highlight the things you need.”
In addition to Reddit, Twitter discontinued free API access earlier this year, causing anger.