Amidst its users’ widespread protests, Reddit is now dealing with a threat from hackers who have asked for a ransom. On top of the expected, money, the hackers have also asked that the platform makes a change to its policies to reduce its Application Programming Interface (API) prices.

Hackers Demand API Pricing Changes

Back in February, Reddit suffered a cyber attack where hackers had access to employee information and the platform’s source code. The phishing attack also granted the attackers access to “Internal documents” whose content Reddit did not clarify.

At the time, Reddit CTO Christopher Slowe also known as KeyserSosawe on the platform said that the company had no evidence to suggest that any of its users’ non-public data had been accessed.

Aside from that, Reddit did not reveal who orchestrated the attack. It is not until recently that BlackCat, a ransomware organization, stated that it had perpetrated the attack on the platform. Moreover, contrary to Reddit’s statement, BlackCat stated that it had stolen data that it is looking to release to the public.

According to a tweet by Researcher Dominic Alvieri, BlackCat created a post on the dark web named “The Reddit Files”. On the post, the group claims that they stole 80GB of sensitive data from Reddit and threatens to make it public if demands aren’t satisfied.

As ransom, the group demands that Reddit reverse its planned pricing adjustments for its API, which sparked objections from users and moderators last week. Reddit has long cultivated an ecosystem of 3rd party apps using its previously free API that in turn helped Reddit grow.

After the pricing changes, most of these apps will die off or have to charge their users to cover the new costs.

In the post, BlackCat states that it contacted Reddit twice, on April 13 and on June 16, but the platform’s leadership did not respond. “I told them in my first email that I would wait for their IPO to come along. But this seems like the perfect opportunity! We are very confident that Reddit will not pay any money for their data,” BlackCat wrote. “We expect to leak the data.”

Reddit’s Battle with Users Escalates

Source: PiunikaWeb

Reddit has been under fire for the past few weeks after it made the decision to increase its prices for access to its API services. The changes have resulted in a heated back-and-forth between Reddit leadership and some of its most engaged users.

Notably, the policy change is not applicable to everyone. For instance, developers who want to create apps and bots that make it easier for users to utilize Reddit as well as academics who want to study Reddit for solely academic or noncommercial purposes can continue to do so for free using Reddit’s API.

However, according to Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman, businesses that “crawl” Reddit for data and “don’t return any of that value” to users would be required to make payments. “It’s a good time for us to tighten things up. We think that’s fair,” he said in an interview with New York Times.

Huffman believes that the Reddit corpus is very valuable, especially in the wake of AI developments. “More than any other place on the internet, Reddit is a home for authentic conversation. There’s a lot of stuff on the site that you’d only ever say in therapy, or AA, or never at all … But we don’t need to give all of that value to some of the largest companies in the world for free.”

The new pricing, which would see third-party app developers potentially pay millions of dollars each year, has resulted in Apollo, a popular third-party Reddit app, announcing its closure.

In response, users have protested against the price change. To show their disagreement, over 8000 popular subreddits went dark indefinitely. This means that participating subreddits have been put on private during the blackout. Therefore, non-subscribers can’t view existing content, and neither can subscribers post or comment on new content.

Huffman has not taken lightly the protests and in retaliation, he has stated that he will make changes to policies concerning moderators, who are leaders of subreddits so that users can vote them out.

After Reddit’s CEO seemed steadfast in his decision despite the widespread protests, some subreddits are finding new ways to fight back. After the CEO threatened to replace moderators if they didn’t open up their subreddits, many opened them but completely changed their subreddits to continue to protest.

A myriad of extremely popular subreddits decided to alter their rules dramatically to completely change the nature of the posts it allowed.

Some of the most amusing examples include r/Shitposting banning all posts with the letter k, r/Wellthatsucks only allowing posts about vacuums, and r/Nofans (an amateur porn subreddit) transforming into a passive PC cooler subreddit.

While the protests are amusing, they don’t seem to be doing much other than perhaps inflicting a bit of reputational damage.

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