A protest from Reddit communities has spiralled into chaos as thousands of subreddits remain dark, moderators clash with the company CEO, and users flood the platform with absurd John Oliver memes.

Between 12 and 14 June, popular news and discussion site Reddit saw thousands of communities go "dark" in a two-day protest of proposed pricing changes to the platform's API from 1 July`, which many protestors fear will price third-party developers out of the platform.

Much of the site was effectively hobbled as participating subreddits set themselves to private, and while the protest was expected to end on schedule, inflammatory responses from Reddit have driven many subreddits to remain private for over a week, some even indefinitely.

Owner of r/rap, Dylan Keath, told Information Age his subreddit of 963,000 members extended its private status to simply work on technical issues, but later prolonged its hiatus following Reddit's response to protestors.

"As an expression of disgust and defiance, we have remained private after the recent communication and attacks to which the unpaid moderators were subject," said Keath.

According to third-party app Reddark, more than 3,500 out of an initial pool of 8,829 protesting communities remain private.

John Oliver dubbed unofficial spokesperson for protest

Meanwhile, a number of popular, re-opening subreddits have coupled their return with a healthy dose of trolling.

In a tongue-in-cheek "ending" to the planned two-day protest, four major subreddits – r/pics, r/gifs/ r/videos and r/aww – are encouraging users to post images of comedian John Oliver en masse.

Pages such as r/pics currently grace visitors with a practically endless feed of Oliver memes, submitted and upvoted by thousands of members.

The community-driven effort seems to be a jab against Reddit's CEO, who controversially suggested most users would prefer if things returned to normal rather than continuing in protest.

Oliver himself got behind the cause in a colossal Twitter thread of selfies and images seemingly intended for protest use.

"Dear Reddit, excellent work. Attn: r/pics — have at it…" wrote Oliver.

Excitable users joined in on the thread, with one user in particular replying, "That’s it, you are now the spokesperson for the boycott".

Reddit threatens bans

During the protest, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, also known by his Reddit username 'Spez', issued an internal memo to Reddit staff downplaying the impact of the community boycott.

"There’s a lot of noise with this one," wrote Huffman.

"Among the noisiest we’ve seen. Please know that our teams are on it, and like all blow-ups on Reddit, this one will pass as well."

Huffman suggested the company hadn't suffered any "significant revenue impact" from the protests, and revealed the company was sticking to its guns for its proposed API model.

"We absolutely must ship what we said we would," he wrote.

Reddit moderators have come forth with claims of being contacted by Reddit – which is reportedly threatening them to reopen protesting subreddits – and one moderator for r/Apple claims Reddit threatened to outright remove moderators who refuse to reopen.

A Reddit spokesperson says the company has not "threatened anyone", and assured it was not aiming to pressure moderators – rather, it was simply "communicating expectations and how things work."

Regardless, the responses trickling down from Reddit have created a stark impression for many moderators – one of whom anonymously told Information Age they would not speak out due to fear of repercussions.

"We don’t wish to participate in the article due to potential repercussions from Reddit," they said.

"If Spez is choosing to seize subs for not reopening, I suspect the admins will be directed to take a very dim attitude regarding those who talk to the press.

"Leaving the site on the 30th is looking like a real option at this point…" they added.

According to NBC News, Huffman is now eyeing an update to the company's moderator removal policy which would allow ordinary Redditors to vote out moderators who make unpopular choices for a subreddit.

"Huffman is fighting against volunteers who provide 3.4 million dollars of free labour," said r/Rap owner Keath.

"He may win this battle. At the end of the day, if Reddit were to crash and burn like Hipmunk, it would not impact us; we can and will move on," he said.