As of Monday, nearly 8,000 subreddit forums are going dark for 48 hours in protest of Reddit’s new pricing policy.
The new policy implements a paid model for Reddit’s third-party apps that allow monthly users to customize their Reddit experience — for example, by personalizing their display theme or changing how they upvote a post — and ensure that their data is not collected and shared.
Also known as an application programming interface (API), third parties like Apollo display the discussion site’s content and enhance the user experience.
However, as of July 1, instead of Reddit footing the bill to operate APIs, the API itself will need to pay the costs — a move CEO Steve Huffman told The New York Times said was made so Reddit doesn’t continue giving away all its “valuable” data for free.
Apollo developer Christian Selig wrote in a Reddit post that the platform’s being asked to pay $0.24 for every 1,000 requests sent to its server.
“With my current usage [this] would cost almost $2 million dollars per month, or over $20 million per year,” Selig said of why it’s “impossible for Apollo to continue” under the new policy.
Reddit users, known as Redditers, are angered by the unrealistic costs. In protest, subreddit moderators, better known as mods, will be turning their respective forums to “private.”
According to a post on r/ModCoord — short for moderator coordination — 7,807 forums are participating in the two-day blackout as of Monday morning, which effects a combined 2.8 billion Reddit users and 28,464 moderators.
The number of participating subreddits and mods is still rising.
“We respect when you and your communities take action to highlight the things you need, including, at times, going private,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a post on the site late last week. “We are all responsible for ensuring Reddit provides an open accessible place for people to find community and belonging.”
A mod for one of the five most popular communities on the site told the BBC the protest was about “strength in numbers.”
They added that they want Reddit admins to realize how much they rely on moderators to run the site, and will catch their attention by harming the site’s traffic.
Ultra-popular subreddit forums r/funny and r/gaming — which have 40 million and 30 million subscribers, respectively — are taking part in the protest, according to the subreddit.
The community r/Music, meanwhile, told its more than 30 million subscribers that the subreddit will be “closed indefinitely for Reddit API policy change protest.”
Aside from lowering the rates for Reddit APIs to operate, Redditers are reportedly also outraged by the lack of accessibility for blind users. The pricing policy updates complicates this issue further, as it will be even more difficult for blind users to access Reddit using an accessible third-party app come July.
Another reason for protest stems from Reddit’s policy on accessing NSFW (not safe for work) content, which is severely restricted on APIs due to pressure from regulators.
The mods — who work as unpaid volunteers — especially rely on APIs like Apollo, which make it easier for them to do moderation tasks such as set community rules, ensure that subreddits remain on topic and ban users who violate Reddit’s content policy.
Reddit heavily relies on these moderators as part of its business model.
NewScientist reported that these volunteers do a reported $3.4 million worth of unpaid labor to keep Reddit up and running.
Competitors like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, meanwhile, pay employees a salary to moderate content on the platform.