Confessions From the Inside: Reddit’s Political Underbelly is not a Pretty Site

December 19, 2012
By

Oh no. Reddit banned us. What do we do NOW? Reddit’s censorship warriors just arbitrarily banned our asses.

Reddit’s SOPA stance is hypocritical, and in their pursuit of seeking more revenue, they have ceased listening to their user base while in the midst of a corporately owned powerhouse.

ORLY?

ORLY?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Articles submitted to the behemoth social site Reddit are voted on, or down voted by the site users. Some sites hire promoters to give their site some attention/traffic. Reddit has used this synopsis to arbitrarily ban certain sites, even without providing evidence, which they claim to have in their possession. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and the Reddit user base are/have been involved in anti-censorship activism which is admirable and also the reason that I first fell in love with Reddit, but the site itself has morphed into the epitome of censorship. As a news aggregator they are taking certain steps to ban users and sites in a fashion which seems suspect.  Of course, Reddit does not see this as censorship but without evidence of any wrongdoing, it most certainly is exactly that.

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The Daily Dot reports:

“….a small group of volunteer moderators have close ties to Reddit’s paid staff, causing some to worry that those moderators hold unfair influence in a community that takes pride in an egalitarian ethos.”

See: Pastebin

Reddit has moderators to be sure the rules are adhered to; no editing of titles, no spamming and no doxxing. By spam (to moderators), that means no more than one out of ten submissions should be from your site or what a person has authored. The unwritten rules of which the user base is not made privy to, is that one may not submit from any site more than once out of ten times. So users believe they are following the rules and are told later, or even told via a ban that they are not adhering to the unwritten rules.

I love/loved Reddit and spent quite a bit of time there after Digg.com was sold. Long before we started FreakOutNation, Digg.com was my hang out. I’m all over the Internet and believe that when trying to put out a message diversity is the key. When Digg was in its last days before it was sold, users met on Facebook to share links. But, on Reddit that’s a big no-no. I never shared links in Facebook groups from Reddit. Yes, I did from Digg, so sue me, but I did not share links from Reddit. Some do, some don’t. I chose not to and I wasn’t aware of the rules, written or otherwise back then.

That said, much later I became a moderator on Reddit. Yes, I admitted that out loud. Don’t judge me.

Confessions of a moderator.

When this volunteer position was offered to me — and they have quite a regiment to go through first via a private voting system after a questionnaire is filled out — I thought it would be my way to contribute to the Reddit community. To give back so to speak. In hindsight, I unknowingly  stepped into a pile of icky shit. I had no idea that moderating was considered ‘power’ at least to one or two (or three) moderators. It would be a sad life to sit at one’s computer and randomly ban people over mundane instances, but that’s what I witnessed by a couple of the moderators. To feel powerful by banning an account that has been active for years simply because a user called a moderator a mean name, is beyond comprehension. I banned users from r/politics for racist or homophobic comments, or releasing personal information on other users. Most moderators do not enjoy banning anyone, but there are one or two in the mix that get their jollies out of holding the ban hammer over a user’s head.

The moment of ‘power hungry mods gone wild’ was the significant point in time that certain parts of my online life fell apart. It began with one moderator taking issue with me for having the audacity to own a blog (OMFG!), and then felt prompted to attempt vigorously to get our site banned. His opinion of our blog was that it was “spam” but not for the aforementioned argument. After asking what he considered spam, he said that he believed that our content was simply copy and paste material; without giving us the respect to linking to sources for credibility . When asked to direct me to an example, he came up empty handed. I listed links to a half dozen other sites which are well known on Reddit as well as across the Internet and asked if he considered them spam.  He replied, “We’re not talking about those sites. Only yours.” It was a witch hunt and he was going after my online child – my site.. To be clear, no other mod sided with his allegations. In fact, quite the opposite. For that, I am forever grateful. Hi guys!

Fast forward: And now, my personal account was banned. From my understanding (someone told me), it was to “get my attention.” And it did! I stepped down gracefully and demodded myself from all subreddits so that another mod would not have to do it and appear to be the ‘evil doer.’ All I asked when I left was that my site be respected. That’s it. Soon after, FreakOutNation was banned. This screen shot lists their dubious reason for the banning of FON.

banned

 

 

After respectfully requesting to see their ‘evidence’ several times, I’ve yet to see it. I took it upon myself to go through a few hours worth of  messages and screen shots then presented them to the admins at Reddit which prove the direct opposite of their allegations. In fact, said evidence that I gathered, redeems me from their allegations. But, facts be damned. Reddit claims to have evidence of a paid promoter working for FreakOutNation and I’m supposed to believe them without seeing it while knowing full well that no one here is paying a promoter? Fuck that.

A redacted screen shot of the reply I received from a Reddit admin.

reddit1

 If Reddit’s evidence is that an anonymous promoter told other promoters that we ‘have a promoter’, then I have to question their allegation. ___ said ___ so it must be true. I did swap links with two people (see: below) after receiving their private message, however, I did not write, “Vote for me!” And that accusation makes this even more curious as it seems like it’s more of a personal problem that someone has with me specifically. I haven’t used G-Chat since the Digg days that I’m aware of, and even then that was a rare occurrence. But, they said so.

So I replied displaying several screen grabs of my conversation with the website owner in question. Here’s one.

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And then this response was sent to me:

reddit4

I have a few other screen shots but I just wanted to be clear in this post as to the direction this was going.

What they seem to be confusing is my personal account and our site. If I had never taken the offer of moderating, I’m quite certain that this debacle would have never taken place. Also, other sites work out issues that Reddit has with them, and has historically unbanned sites. My request has gone unanswered.

What I did do against the rules.

I shared a few links via PMs on my personal account (and admittedly in other messages which they are not aware of to my knowledge) after links were shared with me. This was done possibly a dozen times. My account has been active for a couple of years. I was told later that sharing links is verboten on Reddit. I promptly apologized.

By the way, they read your PMs on Reddit.

India-gate.

The mention of traffic from India was brought up. We have no traffic from India, so the evidence should be given to us (the admins and myself) so that we can deal with any outside issues, although that’s unlikely since we have virtually no visitors from the good country of India, where shady site promoters are in abundance. And if someone who is a promoter submitted from FreakOutNation, we should be given the respect of knowing exactly what is going on outside of our control.

If there’s evidence of non-authorized FON promotions outside of normal-acceptable social networking – internally we need to resolve any issues – only two individuals have authority to act in this manner on FON’s behalf – Myself and comgenKDT the site/server admin. If we find that author(s) or other members of FON are engaging in unacceptable practices we as a site need to address this. If I did something against their rules — unwritten or otherwise — that information should be passed on to us. But thus far Reddit has produce nothing that would justify the banner of shame, though its action suggest they have said evidence readily available for review – - we’ve been tried and convicted already. <insert sad face>

Clearly, from our top ten listings, there is no traffic from India. Our recent traffic stats show that out of the 664,222 unique visitors, none of them are from India.

traffic1

Our top traffic source stats – shown here – reflect little or no activity from India. There is nothing in our statistics on the scale that would suggest the site has ties to any artificial or shady traffic promotions originating from the region they are questioning.

And to be sure, it’s not only my reputation but the volunteer administrators here at FON as well as the writers’ which are also at stake. I’ve emphasized the word volunteer for a reason. We just recently placed ads here in innocuous places (at the bottom of each page) but they are scant and do not cover the charges for the server. We’ve never made a profit here nor have we tried to, so page views are not the problem.  During Reddit spikes roughly less than 20% of said traffic spends more than 2-3 minutes – or the time to read an article on site – the rest bounce traffic – which produces higher bounce rates in our reports and ad services factor this in, we gain less by this high rate – this suggests that Reddit and/or other social sites (digg,  slashdot) are not entirely a blessing if ad revenues were our main objective.

But a good reputation is invaluable. And now our reputation has been hung out to dry by a powerhouse site owned by Conde Nast. Sort of. Conde Nast spun Reddit out and it is now corporately owned by Advance Publications and a sister to Conde Nast as of this year. They moved an IT guy in who had development experience and had worked for Facebook in the past, up to CEO status.

Semi-full disclosure on our site’s spies admins.

Our volunteer admin has given me permission to disclose the following about his professional life, although I think he’s a spy, but you can draw your own conclusions (think: Spy).

ComgenKDT’s 25/8  job: gov/state/local law/edu data-network security and multiple business owner with many moons of professional experience.

Co-admins:  

A mad-scientist with an expressed interest in all things social with network security being a secondary discipline and personal hobby; imagine Walter Bishop unhinged. And she’s a sexay beast!

The others: a licensed data sleuth-contractor; suspected spy. and one crabfisherman/network-server engineer; definitely a suspected spy.

The aforementioned spies admins have contributed their time here without asking anything in return — certainly attempting to defame any of their stellar reputations is unjust.

Why I suspect the admins at FreakOutNation are spies.

They magically appeared out of nowhere! I still can’t figure out how I was blessed with these guys. BUT, I do know for a fact that the crab fisherman has nice hands; and that’s all I know. I saw a pic….while supposedly (wink wink) fishing (or spying for our country). These guys operate under low profile user accounts, but I was given permission to disclose the details mentioned above, although I did edit in that the mad scientist is a sexay beast. Again, don’t judge me.

If you click our about’ tab, it specifically states, “SEOs: We don’t want you. Do not ask please.” We’re addressing promoters. We/I have been besieged in the past with messages  from promoters seeking ‘work’ and frankly it’s annoying. I personally tweet our own posts, list them on Facebook, along with two other writers helping with the admin side of things on our Facebook wall.  (You see how sneaky I am? I linked to our Facebook wall. AKA: Promoted us. Take that!)

Lessons learned: Reddit users should never mouth off to a seemingly bipolar moderator or you could easily get banned from that subreddit. And: Ghost banning: The user has no idea of his or her ban and keeps posting sometimes for a significant amount of time with no knowledge of the ban. Why they do that, I have no idea.

Never, ever take a moderating position and have the unmitigated gall to own or write for a website, although, rumor has it that there is at least one other mod that owns at least one site, but he never spoke up. He did ask me to step down though and that’s pretty sad.

Lists of other banned domains by the censorship warriors at Reddit: http://www.reddit.com/r/BannedDomains/new/

Oy! We’re not on the list. That’s just wrong.

When I began as a mod I noticed that a few sites which I’m familiar with, were  having problems.. All submissions from these site/sites would go directly into the spam filter, then a moderator would have to go through the ‘spam queue’ and release it, if they chose to –  or if a mod was even around. What occurred was a curious thing: for this to happen, another mod had to have hit what’s called the “remove spam” if a submitter from said site was guilty of disobeying the rules — and that would be wrong.

Why it’s wrong.

But what they’re supposed to do if the submission’s title  is edited by the person sharing it is to hit the “remove ham’ feature otherwise the algo changes and that site’s submissions go straight into the spam filter ad infinitum, unless it’s corrected over a period of time. So, I have to conclude that another mod must have had a grudge against the aforementioned site/sites, one in particular which which will remain nameless unless they agree to me outing them of course. So, during my months of modding, I spent a great deal of time going through the spam queue to be sure that the wrong keys were not inappropriately used so that sites would not be censored.

Eventually the algo changed to where it was supposed to be. I mention this so you can see how one mod can fuck an entire site over easily.

For the record: Moderating Subreddits is a bitch in many ways. Mods are called every name in the book on any given day — or at least days which end in a Y. Racist remarks are hurled at Moderators, homophobic and generally fucked up insinuations and threats of outing personal information. But, there was a good side to it too. I tried to extend myself to all the mods and mostly it was well received.. The mod that tried to previously ban my site gave the pretense of putting our differences aside and we even traded pet pictures via PMs.

Cat pic!

Whisper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, it appears that trading pet pics with the other mod, was a trap! As if I didn’t know (wink wink).

To be clear, Reddit will not end our online presence. We receive a good deal of direct traffic, Facebook, Twitter, Stumble Upon, rss, Google and Tumblr. This is not the end. This is only the beginning. We have much evil to spread.

Reddit, we don’t give a damn about the page views, but your site has just thrown quite a few reputations under the bus. Please clear this up. Or don’t. It’s your site — or rather it’s Conde Nast’s sister site — but let’s see that evidence you claim to hold in your files, mmkay?

The Reddit admins have responded several times, until I presented them with my evidence. They contend that I/we may or may not have up/down voted something they secretly consider spam and/or that we have ties to some group in India which sells up-vote promotion based services. One site was brought up in particular, which is owned by a 16 year old kid who relentlessly asked to be on our blogroll and I refused said requests countless times — in fact, I was messaged dozens of times on any given day. I will not kick this kid while he’s down by revealing his site, but Reddit admins have proof that I sent to them that I ceased following him after his requests became more abundant and spammy.

If Reddit’s admins come across this post, they can email me anytime, or even call me (and I’m phone-aphobic). I’ve provided them with the necessary information.

The Internet is a big place. This is about our reputations though.  All we’re asking for is the definitive evidence for their action. We have no problem if they consider us spam in nature nor disagree with our overall political opinion. We do have a problem with being labeled an  ”Internet community criminal-thief-cheater “ based on thus far scant strung together at best evidence. If mod/admin(s) have some personal issue with us make that clear but don’t go engaging in calumny action.

For the record: I do know of some rather large sites that do hire promoters. We aren’t one of them, nor will we throw the ones that do under the bus and mention them here. Also, I did not mention the ban-crazy mods by name. They know who they are. I do miss most of the mods on Reddit though. They really rock. Please note that most of them do work in the best interest of the Reddit community. A few bad apples do happen to make the others appear in a bad light though, and it’s unwarranted. The majority of the moderators really do care about the Reddit community.

P.S.: You’re welcome for the cat pic!

Update:

This post is not even published yet and I just got word of yet another banned account.

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  • R.J. Carter

    What? Reddit discovered some super-secret gaming of their system to promote articles unfairly? Holy Hypocrisy, Batman! (Totally “digging” the redacted black blocks, by the way.)

  • History and stuff

    I’m not going back to Reddit. They’ve censored too many good sites and the users can decide which ones that think are worthy of attention. What a shame.

  • Biting Reality

    Reddit is owned by their corporation and they can do whatever they want – spy, lie, cheat, ban, and shill as well as work the US government into their mod system (which I suspect is happening on sites trying to locate “criminals” or “threats” – reddit may be the latest to fall to the 007-social media power sickness. Take immature, unsocialized former army, fresh out of IT school and moving away from home wanna be power mad and that sounds like a live video game)

    Holy HUAC…Got to keep the threat of them liberal anarchists from communicating!
    Even them thar anonymouses might put real information out that will subvert us all into an anarchist hell!
    Can’t be having none of that transparency – next they will be holding our gubmint responsible for lying to the people!

    http://tv.globalresearch.ca/2012/01/social-networking-spies-cia-sifts-social-media-sites
    https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=c65777356334dab8685984fa74bfd636&_cview=1

    http://counsellingresource.com/features/2010/03/16/growing-fbi-surveillance-of-social-networking-sites/

    http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Social-media-monitored-more-by-law-enforcement-2335017.php

    I find any possible awareness of private conversations suspect – either they are being fed information in return for allowing other organizations access to private messaging or to track users OR they are involved with other networks sharing private information. Facebook already has huge issues with privacy – Why should it surprise anyone that their employees might be less than discreet? In fact, why should we be surprised that the poseurs of reddit admin and corporate honcho-hood be any better than Advance Publishing?

    Ethics are not high on their list of positive qualities promoted

    I am sure there are a few actual Mods who have a moral compass – I have run into a handful of good ones – BUT then there are the shiny, sickly sweet ones that are guilty of what they ban others for doing.

  • Hank

    I knew hanging out with the likes of Janine and Mario would eventually get you in trouble!! ;-) Honestly, I’ve never been able to figure out how to navigate Reddit so I quit visiting it long ago.

    • http://twitter.com/Anomaly100 Anomaly One Hundred

      Try: Reddit Enhancement Suite for easier navigation. You might want to check out r/Conservative. There are tons of subreddits so it is hard at first, but after awhile you’ll get the hang of it. You’re no slacker Hank:-)

  • Targeted by the Man

    No matter how hard reddit tries, the spammy sites will continue to post and promote. Why don’t they just embrace everyone. If the link is crap, won’t the community voting show that? They should be deciding who lives and dies on reddit and calling site’s reputations into question…

  • http://irasciblemusings.com/ Bob Cronos

    Don’t feel bad, I got banned from democratic underground after one post…

    • http://twitter.com/Anomaly100 Anomaly One Hundred

      And that’s wrong too.

      • backpackwayne

        Hey anomaly. I’m trying to get in touch with you. Could you please contact me at backpackwayne@yahoo.com

  • http://www.thepoliticsofjamiesanderson.blogspot.com/ Jamie Sanderson

    Excellent exposé on this.

  • Dawgsrbtr

    Go there occasionally but rarely submit. There is some good content there but with the mass censorship going on it’s not worth more than 30 minutes a day at most and some days I skip. Have been banned several times with no reason given. Would never moderate because it sounds a bit too time consuming. Have to work sometime. They suck

  • That Guy

    I used to go to Reddit but that was over a month ago. Some of the mods are just rude. People get banned on a whim. I don’t and won’t use my account again until they clean that cesspool up. Some reputable sites have been on this chopping block.

  • http://gplus.to/novenator novenator

    As a long time user of Reddit, it’s sad to see them doing this. The site could be so much better.

    • backpackwayne

      I’m trying to get a hold of anomally. I don’t use facebook or twitter and am not sure how to contact her. Could you please tell her to contact me at backpackwayne@yahoo.com? Thanks

      • http://freakoutnation.com/ Anomaly

        Check your email. Wayne, do you want me to remove your email address from the comments? I’m not saying that we have trolls here or anything. (wink wink)

      • http://gplus.to/novenator novenator

        will do

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