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Alexis Ohanian leaves Reddit board, urges firm to fill seat with black candidate

The Reddit co-founder also pledges $1 million to Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp.

Alexis Ohanian at an event in May 2019.
Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian said Friday that he's resigned from the company's board and has urged that his seat be filled with a black candidate. The move comes as protests over police violence and racism continue across the US. The demonstrations were sparked by the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes.

"I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now," Ohanian said in a message posted on social media and his website. "To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop."

Ohanian, who's married to tennis pro Serena Williams, cited his family as one reason for his decision.

"I'm doing this for me, for my family, and for my country," he said. "I'm writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: 'What did you do?'"

The Reddit co-founder said he'll also be using the future gains from his Reddit stock to serve the black community, beginning with a $1 million pledge to former NFL player and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick's Know Your Rights Camp.

Reddit will honor Ohanian's request to fill his position with a black candidate, and will also change its content policy to "explicitly address hate," Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman said in a blog post Friday afternoon. These changes will fill what he called the "unacceptable gap between our beliefs as people and a company, and what you see in our content policy."

"After watching people across the country mourn and demand an end to centuries of murder and violent discrimination against black people, I wanted to speak out," Huffman wrote. The updated policy will include a statement on hate, a principle that Reddit is not to be "used as a weapon" and an overarching "vision" for Reddit. It will be a reversal of Reddit's original policy not to remove any content.

"The majority of our top communities have a rule banning hate and racism," he said. "[But] this is not a rule communities should have to write for themselves and we need to rebalance the burden of enforcement. I also accept responsibility for this."

Ohanian, Huffman and Aaron Swartz co-founded the social networking site in 2005. After selling the company in 2006, Ohanian returned to Reddit in 2015. In 2018, he stepped away from daily duties but remained on Reddit's board. 

Ohanian's resignation from the board follows criticism of Reddit earlier this week from former CEO Ellen Pao for "amplifying" racism and hate.

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