Why Reddit Protesters Are Rallying Around Sexy John Oliver

‘Sexy John Oliver’ is the Guevara-esque face of a new kind of revolution
Why Reddit Protesters Are Rallying Around Sexy John Oliver

Every revolution needs an enticing slogan — the French had “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” and the Redditors have “Sexy John Oliver.”

For those who don’t scroll the endless posts of the “Frontpage of the Internet,” the popular content aggregation site Reddit is in the midst of its latest schism that pits the users and moderators who make up the site’s thriving online ecosystem against the executives who exploit that freely created and painstakingly maintained culture for profit. 

Earlier this month, Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve “Spez” Huffman announced sweeping changes to the site’s data practices ahead of the company’s long-planned move to go public, which is rumored to occur later this year. The changes have been heavily criticized by Reddit’s many unpaid moderators, some of whom temporarily shut down their subreddits in protest. Shortly after the blackouts, Spez vaguely threatened these online activists in an NBC interview, calling them “landed gentry” and suggesting that insubordinate mods may be removed if the admin team deems that they are not behaving in their community’s best interests. 

Then, this past Friday, the moderators of /r/pics gauged their community’s best interest in a little experiment by posting a poll that offered their users two options: either return the subreddit to normal operations and submit to Spez’ bullying, or transition their 30 million subscriber forum for assorted photographs and images into a fanpage exclusively for pictures of Last Week Tonight host John Oliver looking sexy. Guess which path they chose.

The controversy stems from Spez’ announcement that, starting July 1, Reddit will charge developers massive sums of money to access its Application Programming Interface (API), effectively destroying the community of third party applications that the site’s moderators use to preserve and protect their online communities from bots and bad actors. Ever since the site began in 2005, Reddit’s in-house moderation tools have been woefully inadequate in assisting its army of unpaid custodians who keep spammers, bots and brigaders from destroying the uniquely creative communities they cultivate.

Spez’ personal attacks on third party app developers and accusations that the moderators who preserve the site’s ability to exist at all are behaving “undemocratically” have only fueled the flames of dissent in a community that’s pretty much always inflamed. The /r/pics protest is far from the only user-backed backlash on the site, but it’s possibly the most entertaining — with all due respect to the self-effacing Englishman, googling the phrase “Sexy John Oliver” before this past Friday probably would yield as many results as “Delicious British Dishes” or “Redditors With Girlfriends.” Now, the story of a top 10 subreddit spamming thirst traps of Oliver all over the frontpage of the internet as a middle finger at the CEO is, itself, front page news.

Oliver, always an ally of the common folk against the oppression of an overbearing CEO, has been aiding the effort with a steady stream of sexy pics on his Twitter feed since the protest began. As the story continues to pick up steam on various online outlets, Oliver's morph suit bulge may actually draw enough international attention as to demand concessions from Spez — it wouldn't be the first time a foreign leader's plans were foiled by a British dick.

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