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Alexis Ohanian steps down from Reddit board, asks for his seat to go to a black board member

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Alexis Ohanian, the founder and former CEO of Reddit, stepped down from his position on the company’s board Friday as the U.S. roils with nationwide protests against police brutality after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man.

Ohanian is calling on the company he founded to fill his position with a black board member, a high-profile step for a company with its own rocky track record around issues of race.

“I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now,” Ohanian said in his announcement. “To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop.”

With the decision, Ohanian also announced that future gains of his company stock would be invested in the black community, “chiefly to curb racial hate.” That amount could total to around $50 million, according to reliable sources. His first move will be to give $1 million to Know Your Rights Camp, an organization founded by Colin Kaepernick that focuses on self-empowerment and safety for black and brown communities.

Many leaders within tech are calling for the industry to have its own reckoning with entrenched racism, an effort Ohanian’s move may amplify. Tech companies have long been criticized for their broad lack of black leadership at the highest levels, a failing that likely factors into their myriad policy failures around race — like the fact that Facebook only banned white nationalism one year ago.

“I co-founded @reddit 15 years ago to help people find community and a sense of belonging. It is long overdue to do the right thing. I’m doing this for me, for my family, and for my country” Ohanian wrote on Twitter. “I’m saying this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’ ”

Update: Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (u/spez) said that the company would honor the request to bring on a black board member in Ohanian’s place.

Ohanian stepped away from his daily duties at Reddit in 2018 but kept a seat on the board at the time. His transition to being more hands-off at the company he founded has been gradual over the last few years as he spent more time on Initialized Capital, an early-stage venture fund he co-founded. In recent years, Ohanian has also become a more outspoken advocate for policies like paid family leave, calling for more equitable, flexible leave policies and citing his own experience as a father. In 2017, Ohanian had a daughter with his wife, tennis legend Serena Williams.

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Reddit occupies a unique place among social media platforms. It has largely avoided the spotlight of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, but not for lack of its own systemic problems. Though it hasn’t been as high-profile, the platform has faced its own reckoning around harmful content in recent years for hosting virulently racist content on subcommunities like r/blackpeoplehate, r/The_Donald and others. Reddit has taken action against those communities over time, either banning them outright or placing them in a state of “quarantine” where they are not surfaced in search or recommendations and require a user to click through to view them.

The company’s history with diversifying its leadership has been spotty. In 2015, internal turmoil at the company and a backlash from its users led to the resignation of the company’s interim CEO, Ellen Pao. As we reported in 2016, more than a dozen senior Reddit employees, many of them women and people of color, left the company in the resulting tumult. As it continued its overdue campaign to crack down on violence and hate speech, Reddit brought in its first female board member, Porter Gale, last year.

In a post on Reddit, Huffman also addressed the company’s troubled history of allowing often violent and extreme racist content to flourish on the platform.

“In 2018, I confusingly said racism is not against the rules, but also isn’t welcome on Reddit. This gap between our content policy and our values has eroded our effectiveness in combating hate and racism on Reddit; I accept full responsibility for this,” Huffman said.

He also acknowledged concerns from employees about the company’s policy decisions, expressed this week in response to an email he sent out about ongoing protests and the killing of George Floyd.

“These questions, which I know are coming from a place of real pain and which I take to heart, are really a statement: There is an unacceptable gap between our beliefs as people and a company, and what you see in our content policy,” Huffman said.

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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