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Reddit Communities Stage Mass Blackout in Protest Against Data Access Charges

Updated: Jan 5

Popular Reddit communities unite in a massive blackout to oppose Reddit's plan to charge for data access, impacting third-party developers and users alike.

Reddit
Credit: REUTERS

Thousands of well-known Reddit communities, spanning topics from Apple Inc to gaming and music, took a stand on Monday by locking out their users. The demonstration aims to voice opposition to Reddit's upcoming policy of charging for access to its valuable data.


Starting next month, third-party app developers utilizing Reddit's extensive data reserves will be required to pay a price, potentially affecting companies of all sizes, from industry giants like OpenAI to smaller developers. Among those impacted by the exorbitant fees is the Apollo app, beloved by Redditors for its alternative interface. The cost implications have rendered it "impossible" for Apollo to continue offering its service.


Key protest details include:


What sparked the blackout?


The protest has been in the works for weeks following Reddit's April announcement, stating that third parties would be charged for using its application programming interface (API) - a software framework facilitating communication between a data provider and an end-user. Effective from July 1, Reddit plans to charge developers requiring higher usage limits $0.24 for every 1,000 API calls or less than $1 per user per month. According to Apollo, these charges would amount to over $20 million annually based on their current usage.


Why is Reddit implementing this change?


Generative AI, such as Microsoft-backed OpenAI's viral chatbot ChatGPT, is one of the driving factors. Reddit's discussion forums harbour a vast amount of valuable data that can be utilized to train AI tools. While some data can be collected informally, Reddit's API streamlines the process of locating and gathering data for companies.

In an interview with the New York Times, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman stated that the "Reddit corpus of data is really valuable," and he aims to avoid giving away all of that value for free to some of the world's largest companies.


Who is affected, and when will the blackout end?


Thousands of subreddits, each dedicated to a specific topic, are joining the protest. The majority of their moderators have organised a 48-hour blackout, during which the pages will be set to private, effectively denying millions of users access. Prominent subreddits such as r/Music, r/gaming, r/science, and r/todayilearned, boasting over 30 million subscribers each, are actively participating. Some communities, like r/Music, intend to protest indefinitely.

Unlike many other social media platforms, Reddit heavily relies on community moderators, known as "mods," who voluntarily moderate their subreddits, ensuring the removal of offensive or illegal content.


What are third-party app developers saying?


Christian Selig, the creator of the popular Apollo app for Reddit, announced via Twitter that the service will shut down on June 30. Huffman acknowledged that other third-party apps, including Reddit is Fun and Sync, have also concluded that the new pricing structure "isn't viable for their businesses" and will close before the pricing takes effect.


Reddit's perspective on the matter


Huffman recognised the frustration expressed by many Reddit community moderators, but he emphasized that the company can no longer subsidise commercial entities reliant on extensive data usage. Reddit must transition into a "self-sustaining business."


Actions taken by other social media companies


In January, Twitter, led by Elon Musk, restricted all third-party clients and apps, while updating its rules for developers accessing its APIs. The new regulations explicitly prohibit developers from creating "a substitute or similar service or product to the Twitter Application" using the company's API.

 
  • Thousands of popular Reddit communities are protesting Reddit's plan to charge for data access.

  • Third-party app developers, from large companies to small businesses, will be impacted.

  • The Apollo app, a favorite among Redditors, will be forced to cease its operations.

  • Reddit's API is a valuable resource for training generative AI tools.

  • The blackout, lasting 48 hours or more, affects subreddits such as r/Music, r/gaming, r/science, and r/todayilearned.

  • Community moderators play a crucial role in policing Reddit content.

  • Third-party app developers like Apollo, Reddit is Fun, and Sync are unable to sustain their businesses under the new pricing structure.

  • Reddit aims to become a self-sustaining business by no longer subsidizing entities with extensive data needs.

  • Twitter implemented similar restrictions on third-party clients and apps in January.

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