r/TranscribersOfReddit, a Reddit community of volunteers who write transcripts for media that appear on subreddits such as r/ProgrammerHumor and r/technicallythetruth, will according to a message from a moderator. The last day of the community is June 30, 2023.
“Our role in the Reddit community has always been to point out flaws in the platform — namely the lack of accessibility features like alt text — and to provide a workaround, constructive solution while raising awareness of these issues. wrote Rebekah Ginsburg, who goes by u/halailah on Reddit and is chairman of the board of Grafeas Group, the non-profit organization that runs the system that powers r/TranscribersOfReddit. Users on the subreddit transcribe images, audio, and video for about 100 subreddits.
“We believed Reddit was ultimately interested in addressing these flaws, and our beliefs were strengthened by the positive relationships we’ve built with administrators over the past six years,” Ginsburg said. “But in light of recent events, we now recognize that Reddit corporate has shown a serious lack of willingness to address core issues with the platform.”
Part of the reason for the shutdown is Reddit’s upcoming API changes, which may incur huge costs for using the API. While the changes would “probably make it more difficult, but not impossible, for Transcribers or Reddit to function,” Ginsburg said, “we think it’s only a matter of time until further changes make it truly impossible.”
The changes also halted plans to move to a custom third-party app for the service, r/TranscribersOfReddit and Grafeas Group co-founder Joe Kaufeld, who uses u/Itsthejoker on Reddit, wrote in another post. “That step is now cut at the ankles, and combined with everything else and the amount of money it takes to keep the sub going, we decided it was the ‘least dope’ option to close here,” said Kaufeld.
Many users are mourning the closure. “r/ToR_Archive is mine r/everything” you wrote/MostlyBlindGamer, who is also a mod on r/blind. ‘Transcriptions on r/ProgrammerHumor are how I stay pointlessly connected to the memes surrounding my work.” “r/world news video and his community will miss you terribly… thank you for all you’ve done to bring Reddit to everyone,” wrote another user.
In the closing post, Ginsburg pointed to Reddit’s unclear timeline for accessibility improvements to the official app and how the impending shutdown of some third-party apps will harm users. Many blind and low-vision moderators rely on third-party apps to moderate because the company’s app doesn’t have what they need, and they worry about how they’ll be able to moderate once apps like Apollo shut down (also on June 30).
Reddit says it will exempt accessibility-focused apps from the API fee, listing RedReader, Dystopia, and Luna. However, according to a report in r/software, which is read-only in protest against Reddit, those apps don’t have full moderator functionality. Even though Luna is apparently working on some moderator roles, the post said, so if the third-party apps shut down at the end of the month, many moderators could find themselves in a tough spot.
Ginsburg also said the “lack of trust in Reddit and the serious disappointment in their responses to user protests” were a factor in the decision to close the community.
Reddit met with moderators from r/blind and other accessibility-focused subreddits on June 16. according to a post on r/blind, but it didn’t seem to do much to calm the fears. For example, Reddit seemed “unaware that the apps that have been granted API pricing waivers to date do not have adequate moderation features.” When a moderator noted that blind mods who cannot moderate effectively after the changes “may be removed by policy at Reddit’s discretion”, Reddit “postponed commenting”.
“While the call was promising as Reddit invited us to be part of an ongoing dialogue and demonstrated some well-thought-out, accessible designs for Reddit users, we came away with serious concerns that Reddit was unable or unwilling to address at the meeting, the message said.
Reddit seems to be aware that there is room for accessibility improvement. “There’s no excuse for our own apps,” said CEO Steve Huffman wrote in his June 9 AMA. And to The edge earlier this month, spokesperson Tim Rathschmidt said Reddit was “looking into a couple of things right now.” But until it makes changes, Reddit could become harder to use for some people very soon.
Reddit did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to Rathschmidt, “We no longer comment on rumours, unsubstantiated allegations or unsubstantiated allegations of The edge. We will contact you if corrections are needed.”