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Reddit's revolving door swings again as head of community departs

Jessica Moreno has become the latest in a growing number of women to leave Reddit in the last several weeks, as the company looks to pivot on its content policy.

As Reddit goes through major changes, it has lost the head of its community -- the latest in a long line of departures. Screenshot by Claire Reilly/CNET

Yet another Reddit employee is headed out the door.

Reddit's head of community, Jessica Moreno, said Tuesday that her decision to go was a difficult one, with the community forums site in the midst of major changes to how it handles content on the site.

In the last several months, Reddit has been caught in a maelstrom of controversy over its policies regarding the freewheeling commentary that has made it both wildly popular and a sometime symbol of the Internet's darker side. A number of prominent employees have departed in that time, and Reddit is now on its third CEO since November.

"Reddit is taking difficult steps in a much needed positive direction," Moreno said in a statement, adding that she's "excited to see the progress being made and glad I could be a part of it." She said that she is leaving to spend more time with her family in Salt Lake City.

Reddit confirmed that Moreno is leaving, but an exact date for her departure has not yet been set.

Founded in 2005, Reddit -- one of the most trafficked sites on the Web, with nearly 164 million visitors per month -- has long seen itself as a community devoted to open and honest discussion. But its traditional anything-goes approach has allowed some of the worst aspects of the Internet to fester on the site, including the growth of forums, or "subreddits," devoted to racist or homophobic notions.

In response, Reddit has joined many of the world's largest social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, in ramping up efforts to police content posted by users.

Ten days ago, new Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced a set of new content policies that will restrict what users can post on the site. In a town hall forum, Huffman said that a wide array of posts are no longer allowed, including those containing illegal activity; publication of people's private information; anything that incites violence, harassment, bullying, abuse; and anything sexually suggestive of minors. Huffman argued that the move will help Reddit fend off inappropriate content, but still give its users "freedom" to consume legal content.

Moreno is the fourth female employee to leave Reddit in about a month's time. On July 2, Victoria Taylor, Reddit's well-respected director of talent, was fired, in a decision that brought a high-profile backlash from some of the site's moderators and from the Reddit community at large. On July 10, interim CEO Ellen Pao -- who caught much of the flak for Taylor's departure and certain policy changes -- resigned after she said she witnessed "the good, the bad, and the ugly" at Reddit.

And on July 14, Reddit's chief engineer, Bethanye Blount, announced her departure, saying that the company was making promises that she didn't feel comfortable delivering on. She also was vocal about what she saw as a gender discrimination problem at Reddit, citing the hard spot Pao found herself in, though Blount said she herself did not leave because of gender bias.

"The company is growing, and we have the opportunity to improve in many areas -- including the number of women in leadership positions," Huffman said earlier this month in response to issues Reddit has faced in keeping women in executive-level positions. "I am confident in our ability to recruit women at the executive level."

Despite its troubles, controversy, and employee losses, Reddit is flush with cash. Reddit announced in September that it raised $50 million from prominent venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia Capital. Reddit also announced at the time that it would provide 10 percent of equity in the company to its own community of users "in recognition of the central role the community plays in Reddit's ongoing success."