Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao stopped by the Freakonomics podcast as part of its Secret Life of CEOs series. During her conversation with host Stephen Dubner, Pao opened up about what it was like at Reddit after she led the tech world in banning revenge porn and unauthorized nude photos. While Pao expected outcry over the move, there was very little grumbling. The uproar came later: Reddit found itself in the middle of an uprising when the company decided to ban five harassment-filled subreddits where users were doxxing each other, urging members to kill themselves, and more.
It was a companywide nightmare with Pao at the center of it. However, as she told Dubner, there was one thing that got her through:
Pao: One of the subreddits we got rid of was one that was fairly popular. So they ended up kind of putting up a lot of terrible pictures, terrible memes, terrible content about myself, about —
Dubner: About you.
Pao: Yeah, about me. And photoshopped images, and just saying terrible things about myself and my family.
Dubner: And what was that like for you?
Pao: Most of the site, I think, was either neutral or positive. I did get a lot of messages from people who were just relieved. One of the people said that … a friend of their sister’s … had experienced revenge porn, and had ended up committing suicide. So the importance of taking down that content, and taking these steps to clean up the site, and make it a place where everybody could feel comfortable, was something that was really meaningful. So I knew that it was the right thing to do. And that was what helped me get through that time.