Exploring further into Reddit I’ve discovered the events that shape the different communities and how these communities vary greatly across the site and the different subreddits. A key factor that differentiates Reddit from other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter where you use your real name to interact with people you know, is that users on Reddit operate under pseudonyms giving them more of a freedom to say what they want to people they don’t know.
The best and the worst of internet culture is brought to the surface through Reddit and it can have very real implications on society and people. In August 2014, photographs were stolen from celebrities iCloud accounts. These images found their way across the web and became the focal point of a subreddit named The Fappening. Due to the way that Reddit’s algorithm worked, it being new content that was highly upvoted, this subreddit quickly made it to the front page. This created wide spread discussion on Reddit in a demonizing way creating a toxic technoculture which it is referred to by Adrienne Masanari. It took 6 days for the subreddit to be taken down but similar subreddits are still active to this day such as r/thefappeningdiscussion.
The #gamergate controversy came around in 2014 that was stemmed from the harassment of game developer Zoe Quinn and began questioning ethics in gaming culture and the protection of gamer identities. In 2013 after the Boston Marathon Bombings, Sunil Tripathi, was wrongly identified as the bomber by Reddit users and his photo was spread online as a suspect causing his family being bombarded with hate messages. These incidents show how an online community can have a huge impact on the real world and how this can quickly become detrimental.
Good has also come out of this online community that have created a positive impact. In 2009 Dan McComas posted on Reddit with the idea of doing a Secret Santa through the Reddit community. It sparked a lot of interest and within days the site redditgifts.com was created. The first Secret Santa had 4380 participants in 62 countries and with a 96% ship rate meaning nearly everyone sent and received a gift. Since then Reddit gifts has expanded to over 280 000 participants in 160 countries showing that an online community can be brought together purely based on honesty and generosity.
The negatives and the positives are vastly different and this shows the range of people on Reddit and their intentions on the site. The lack of accountability of those putting forward negative comments due to the anonymity makes it more appealing to those who would otherwise keep silent in fear of persecution and repercussions. This can be seen as a product of the web, as we can say what we like without feeling the backlash and this creates a desire to engage with others on Reddit.
The role that Reddit plays in terms of world politics has been particularly prominent through the past year. The US presidential election and Donald Trump have been a focus and it’s the way that this online community flooded Reddit through pro trump memes that included Pepe the Frog, spreading theories about the hacked emails of the democratic national committee emails that were published on Wikileaks which was stemmed from a subreddit called the Donald. It dominated the front page of Reddit and eventually caused Reddit to change its algorithm to limit the influence a single subreddit can have on the front page. An article on the site FiveThirtyEight analyses the members of the Donald through an adapted technique called the latent semantic analysis. Through data on active subreddits and the comments it relies on commenter overlap across subreddits to determine what kind of subreddits users are interested by adding or subtracting components.
These results skew towards a more misogynistic and racist group of subreddits. While this isn’t conclusive that all members of the Donald are misogynists and racists reinforces Trump’s views. Recently, this subreddit has changed its focus onto the French Presidential election in attempt to replicate the US election through their support of Marine Le Pen, using the slogan “Make Europe Great Again”.
Many of the members on the Donald are real people the presence of bots on the subreddit as well as across Reddit is something very prominent. It’s hard to determine how many bots there are or why they are there. Some bots are harder to pick out than others but their presence on Reddit is real. There is a subreddit entirely made up of bots which collect information from other subreddits and uses the language used in it to create new posts. This may seem useless, but Nvidia is using Reddit to teach artificial intelligence how to use language properly so it can better understand how a conversation works. Reddit is not only incorporating bots into its platform but pushing forward AI technology through the shear volume of content that exists across the platform. This video discusses the evolution of language on Reddit.
Massanari, A 2015, #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures, New Media & Society Vol 19, Issue 3, pp. 329 – 346