Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

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December 19, 2012

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.

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.

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 was sold. Long before we started FreakOutNation, 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.

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.

 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.

And then this response was sent to me:

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.


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.

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.


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 your account will be ghost banned. 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:

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!

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!


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