AMAs are the latest casualty in Reddit’s API war



Ask Me Anything (AMA) has been a Reddit staple that helped popularize the social media platform. It delivered some unique, personal, and, at times, fiery interviews between public figures and people who submitted questions. The Q&A format became so popular that many people host so-called AMAs these days, but the main subreddit has been r/IAmA, where the likes of then-US President Barack Obama and Bill Gates have sat in the virtual hot seat. But that subreddit, which has been called its own “juggernaut of a media brand,” is about to look a lot different and likely less reputable.

On July 1, Reddit moved forward with changes to its API pricing that has infuriated a large and influential portion of its user base. High pricing and a 30-day adjustment period resulted in many third-party Reddit apps closing and others moving to paid-for models that developers are unsure are sustainable.

The latest casualty in the Reddit battle has a profound impact on one of the most famous forms of Reddit content and signals a potential trend in Reddit content changing for the worse.

On Saturday, the r/IAmA moderators announced that they will no longer perform these duties:

  • Active solicitation of celebrities or high-profile figures to do AMAs.
  • Email and modmail coordination with celebrities and high-profile figures and their PR teams to facilitate, educate, and operate AMAs. (We will still be available to answer questions about posting, though response time may vary).

  • Running and maintaining a website for scheduling of AMAs with pre-verification and proof, as well as social media promotion.

  • Maintaining a current up-to-date sidebar calendar of scheduled AMAs, with schedule reminders for users.

  • Sister subreddits with categorized cross-posts for easy following.

  • Moderator confidential verification for AMAs.

  • Running various bots, including automatic flairing of live posts

The subreddit, which has 22.5 million subscribers as of this writing, will still exist, but its moderators contend that most of what makes it special will be undermined.

“Moving forward, we’ll be allowing most AMA topics, leaving proof and requests for verification up to the community, and limiting ourselves to removing rule-breaking material alone. This doesn’t mean we’re allowing fake AMAs explicitly, but it does mean you’ll need to pay more attention,” the moderators said.

The mods will also continue to do bare minimum tasks like keeping spam out and rule enforcement, they said. Like many other Reddit moderators Ars has spoken to, some will step away from their duties, and they’ll reportedly be replaced “as needed.”

Fed up with Reddit

The mods’ announcement marks a major transition for the subreddit famous for scoring household names like Gates, Elon Musk, and Madonna. Those high-profile names and others drew global headlines and Reddit visitors who weren’t previously regulars.

“This sub—and in particular, the fact that high-profile celebrities’ appearances on here [are] often featured in articles in places like BBC News—is how I discovered Reddit,” a comment posted to the r/IAmA moderators’ announcement said.

However, the subreddit mods are fed up with the site. To illustrate Reddit’s history of disregarding users and moderators, the announcement cited an op-ed that two subreddit mods wrote for The New York Times in 2015 to explain the recent decision.

Written by mods Brian Lynch and Courtnie Swearingen, the op-ed explained the subreddit moderators’ decision to go dark for 24 hours after Reddit fired Victoria Taylor, who worked with moderators on AMAs.

The op-ed said Reddit “made critical changes” to the site “without any apparent care for how those changes might affect their biggest resource: the community and the moderators that help tend the subreddits that constitute the site.”


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