Commentary: Reddit’s biggest risk is its reliance on unpredictable users


Then, there’s the small matter of all the unpaid labour it relies on to keep things even remotely civil. There were 60,000 active daily moderators using the platform in December 2023, the filing stated, though it didn’t offer any historical comparisons – investors may want fuller disclosures around that figure to determine whether the number of active moderators is declining. That worked out to just more than 1,200 users for each moderator. 

The going rate for a content moderator around the world varies greatly, but for the sake of expedience, let’s say it might average around US$50,000 a year. That’s US$3 billion worth of free labour. Reddit has only 2,013 full-time employees of its own and thus is relying on these passionate volunteers to stop its website from descending into chaos and keep advertisers from rushing to the exits. 

As the site grows, the job of moderator becomes more burdensome for the volunteer and riskier for the company. “Mods”, as they are known, may disagree with the company on what constitutes offensive or inappropriate behaviour, and as efforts to monitise grow, this will be a flashpoint.

The site, it’s worth stating, is chock-full with pornography, some of which might be considered, by some, as pushing the boundaries of the morally acceptable. Even those users who don’t consume that content will reflexively resent any efforts to sanitise one of the edgier corners of the internet.

Fallout could be swift and effective, the filing warns.

“Moderators can also band together and, for various reasons, decide to shut down the normal operation of their communities” and “reduce the amount of monetisable content generated by Redditors.”

This could all happen in a flash, though the company said that a recent coordinated protest – in which several popular subreddits shut themselves down – did not have a material effect on the business.


Business Asia
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