Background and History
In 2021, A focal point of these controversies has been a user known as u/awkwardtheturtle, a power moderator who managed several thousand-popular Subreddit. Many users claimed that u/awkwardtheturtle abused their power, frequently banning users arbitrarily, showing bias against male users, and even allegedly receiving payment for their moderation duties, a clear violation of Reddit’s policy against compensating moderators1.
These accusations sparked a massive campaign against u/awkwardtheturtle, crossing Subreddit boundaries and culminating in a Change.org petition that garnered nearly 14,000 signatures. The petition accused the moderator of wielding excessive power and breaking Reddit’s rules1.
In response to the backlash, another moderator from the r/MildlyInfuriating subreddit claimed that u/awkwardtheturtle had been removed from their role due to intense pressure, including credible threats against their person1. Despite this, u/awkwardtheturtle maintained a position as a moderator on approximately 1,000 other Subreddit1. However, u/awkwardthetutle angry anti men posts earned him a spot as moderator on the now partially defunct Subreddit, “Female Dating Strategy.”
The u/awkwardtheturtle also received thousands of down votes for their comments on the platform
AwkwardTheTurtle then seemed to vanish, without any word or public post for years. Their Twitter account has a single strange post about famines and their Reddit remained silent. I was unable to find out much about this time frame, and wonder if AwkwardTheTurtle was even moderating.
The Great Reddit Moderator Controversy of 2023
June, 2023, Reddit, the popular online platform known for its robust communities and open discourse, has recently been gripped by two interconnected controversies involving its moderators. These events have sparked heated debates about power dynamics, censorship, and governance within the platform.
While the controversy was unfolding, another issue was brewing on Reddit. In an act of protest, some Moderators of Subreddit went private to continue their defiance against the API changes of Reddit. After this failed, the moderators then turned on their NSFW (Not Safe for Work) flag, with the aim of depriving Reddit of ad targeting opportunities. This move was perceived as a direct response to the alleged mistreatment and bias against certain moderators. Many Reddit moderators then encouraged porn and posts of John Oliver.
Reddit swiftly reacted by removing the moderation teams of several Subreddits, including r/mildlyinteresting, r/interestingasfuck, and r/TIHI, which had begun allowing NSFW content or had loosened their rules on such content. Reddit claimed that incorrectly marking a community as NSFW was a violation of their Content Policy and Moderator Code of Conduct2.
However, less than an hour after the mass removal of moderators, Reddit appeared to backpedal and reinstated some moderation teams. As of the most recent update, r/MildlyInteresting got its mods back, but r/interestingasfuck, r/TIHI, and r/ShittyLifeProTips remain unmoderated2.
Shortly after, it became clear, that a Reddit user known as u/awkwardtheturtle was unexpectedly banned, and their account deleted, with no clear explanation provided from Reddit. Further texts were released showing u/awkwardtheturtle arguing with the leadership of Reddit, even threatening them. In the text, u/awkwardtheturtle states they did nothing wrong, and demands their account be restored. The authentication of the screenshots could not be proven.
In the wake of these controversies, the Reddit company continues to grapple with questions about power, governance, and the role of moderators on the platform. Meanwhile, the Reddit community appears to be upset about the lack of leadership and care about their role in Reddit’s future.
Update: After the article was written, u/awkwardtheturtle had asserted on the Twitter platform that they were the driving force behind the campaign to promote John Oliver. They specifically asked John Oliver to help restore their account. Their claims directly conflict with the unverified chat records provided. 3
6/25/2023 Updated With New Details—Clarified some Language
DailyDot – “Massive Campaign Launched Against Moderator awkwardtheturtle”
Quippd – “Reddit is Removing Mods Whose Teams Let Their Subreddits Post NSFW Content”