On Friday, a moderator for the r/Oculus subreddit announced that they and the rest of the community’s moderation team have decided to make the founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, a moderator, causing some members of the subreddit to unsubscribe in protest.
“I know this might surprise one or the other but a little while ago, /u/palmerluckey approached the mod team if he can support our community and become a moderator – now that he is no longer with Oculus,” the moderator, dudeisac, said. “It’s hard to find anyone with more experience and insights in the VR industry as well as a deep understanding of where /r/oculus is coming from – we were always happy to count Palmer as one of our earliest and most active community members. So after a bit of internal debate in the mod team we decided to welcome Palmer to the team.”
As you might recall, in 2017 Luckey left Oculus, the company he founded and sold to Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion, after The Daily Beast revealed that he was giving money to a pro-Donald Trump non-profit through a convoluted Reddit scheme. Since then, Luckey also donated $100,000 to Trump’s inauguration, and met with members of the Trump administration about his new company, Anduril, which is developing border surveillance technology.
“I look forward to serving the community! It has been incredible watching this sub go from a hyper-niche enthusiast hangout to the mainstream,” Luckey said. “This has been the single largest VR community in the world since near the start, and I think it will stay that way for a long time, even as the eternal September continues.”
Some members of r/Oculus were angry at the decision, and say they are unsubscribing in protest because they think Luckey’s position as moderator will embolden right wing members of the community and justify bad behavior. As you might expect, and in support of their argument, the thread has already devolved into political name-calling.
At the moment, the top comment on the thread that announced Luckey’s position is from a user named SavingPrincess, who explains:
“So… Palmer isn’t the reason I’m unsubbing… but the element he brings out is. Mods, I hope you understand that. You are elevating a person into a (minor) position of power and this is the kind of door that opens. Regardless of anything he’s done or accomplished… this is the element that you are now associating r/oculus with. Any time an alt-right asshat wants to speak up now and spew hate, he will feel empowered, because, after all, the rich guy ‘on his team’ is now a moderator here… the ‘most important guy in the room’ agrees with him…”
SavingPrincess quotes the reaction of other, supposedly right wing members of the subreddit to prove his point.
“Welcome, Palmer! Down with SJW!” one supporter said.
“It is fun watching all the people using their political opinions as some type of moral high ground as to why Palmer shouldn’t be a mod. Entitled emotional libs are so funny..” said another.
According to Redditmetric.com, which tracks subreddit subscriber numbers, on Friday, r/Oculus had 105,972. At the time of writing, the subreddit itself counts 105,733. Even if these numbers do indicate a real dip in subscribers, it is far from devastating. However, the thread makes it clear that at least some users are upset enough about the decision to leave the community.
“Yep. I am also unsubscribing. What a horrendous and stupid decision by the mod team,” a user named Hands said.
“Sad part is, I doubt the rest of the mod team disagrees with his politics and welcome the chance to shout down some SJWs. Let’s turn this place into the_donald! Go fuck yourself /r/oculus!” a user named Namingway said.
“I’m unsubscribing too. I went back and forth on whether I should get a Rift precisely because I didn’t want to be associated with Trump’s biggest supporter in the VR community AND the scum he brings with him. Now you make him a mod here? I’ll find another VR forum to get my news from, thanks,” a user named UpFromTheCinders said.
As Luckey notes, with more than 100,000 subscribers, r/Oculus is one of the biggest virtual reality communities on Reddit and the internet.
I have reached out to the r/Oculus moderation team and Luckey, both of which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.