Some moderators of Reddit communities participating in the protest against API changes today got messages from the company: work to reopen your subreddits or else.

If there are mods here who are willing to work towards reopening this community, we are willing to work with you to process a Top Mod Removal request or reorder the mod team to achieve this goal if mods higher up the list are hindering reopening. We would handle this request and any retaliation attempts here in this modmail chain immediately.

Our goal is to work with the existing mod team to find a path forward and make sure your subreddit is made available for the community which makes its home here. If you are not able or willing to reopen and maintain the community, please let us know.

On Thursday, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told The Verge that “we don’t have problems with protests.” According to NBC News, Huffman “plans to pursue changes” that would let regular users vote moderators out more easily. Though the protest, which included more than 8,000 subreddits at peak, was initially planned to last for only two days, many subreddits vowed to stay dark indefinitely, including popular communities like r/music, r/videos, and r/nba, which remained dark even during the NBA championship game. More than 4,000 subreddits remain closed.

Mods were already worried. Reddit said in a fact sheet on Thursday that it is “not shutting down discussions or unilaterally reopening communities,” but the admin account u/ModCodeofConduct said the company can remove mods that violate Reddit’s Mod Code of Conduct and replace them.

“If a moderator team unanimously decides to stop moderating, we will invite new, active moderators to keep these spaces open and accessible to users,” u/ModCodeofConduct wrote. And on Thursday evening, spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt confirmed that moderators of subreddits going dark to protest the upcoming API price changes can be in violation of the code of conduct.

In a pinned message on r/funny, the biggest subreddit to go private before recently reopening, a moderator implored Reddit “to listen to its moderators, its contributors, and its everyday users” and asked it to “not tacitly enable bad actors by working against your volunteers.” r/Apple also recently reopened after being closed out of fears that it would be forcibly reopened. “We want the best for this community and have no choice but to open it back up — or have it opened for us,” a moderator wrote. Another r/Apple mod is resigning in protest of Reddit’s actions.

“We have not threatened anyone,” Reddit spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said in a statement to The Verge. “That’s not how we operate. Pressuring people is not our goal. We’re communicating expectations and how things work. Redditors want to reddit and mods want to mod. We want mods who want to mod to be able to do so.”

The messages seen by The Verge were sent to moderators of some major subreddits, including r/funny and r/aww, which are two of the most subscribed subreddits on the platform. (As far as we are aware, r/funny is the second-most subscribed, while r/aww is the fifth.) r/funny had been closed in protest but reopened this morning; r/aww is viewable but is in a restricted mode.

On Tuesday, an internal memo sent by Huffman seemed to minimize the protest and its potential impact on the company. “There’s a lot of noise with this one. Among the noisiest we’ve seen,” the note read. “Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blowups on Reddit, this one will pass as well.”

Here is one of the messages seen by The Verge that was sent to moderators:

Hi everyone

We wanted to ensure that you are aware that the API update does not impact moderation bots or sitewide tools to control spam or remove harmful content. You can find more details in this article in our help center. You may have seen posts or received messages from users telling these tools are going away or are somehow impacted, but this is not the case.

We are also aware that some members of your mod team have expressed that they want to close your community indefinitely. We are reaching out to find out if this is the consensus reached by the mod team.

Subreddits exist for the benefit of the community of users who come to them for support and belonging and in the end, moderators are stewards of these spaces and in a position of trust. Your users rely on your community for information, support, entertainment, and finding connection with others who have similar interests. Ensuring that communities are able to remain stable and actively moderated is incredibly important to the people seeking out these spaces to make and foster connections.

If there are mods here who are willing to work towards reopening this community, we are willing to work with you to process a Top Mod Removal request or reorder the mod team to achieve this goal if mods higher up the list are hindering reopening. We would handle this request and any retaliation attempts here in this modmail chain immediately.

Our goal is to work with the existing mod team to find a path forward and make sure your subreddit is made available for the community which makes its home here. If you are not able or willing to reopen and maintain the community, please let us know.

Update June 16th, 2:05PM ET: Added statement from Reddit.

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