In the shadow of Facebook and Twitter, Reddit has thrived for years. At its core, the platform, with over 400 million users, was able to retain its character as an Internet get-togethers. What this means was last shown in the episode about the mass purchases of Gamestop shares.
It sounds like a mixture of Robin Hood and Hollywood: In an online forum, small investors agree to support the ailing video game retailer Gamestop with stock purchases. A price rally then begins. The value of the stock rises from four dollars to over $ 480 at times. So-called short sellers who had bet on a falling course for Gamestop lost a lot of money. There was great excitement in the financial markets. “David versus Goliath”, “grassroots versus hedge fund giants” – that’s how the unequal duel on Wall Street was described.
The linchpin of these course capers was the online platform Reddit . There, the financial analyst Keith Gill had repeatedly posted screenshots of his stock portfolio under his pseudonym DeepFuckingValue. On his YouTube channelHe spent hours taking apart stats and graphs to prove that Gamestop stock was undervalued. Nobody cared about it until November 2020. But then Gill posted a screenshot on Reddit that showed how his investment of $ 57,000 was suddenly worth $ 48 million. The contribution received 140,000 “upvotes”, as the likes are called on Reddit. “If he is in, so are we,” wrote one user – and gave the go-ahead for an unprecedented price rally on Wall Street. The fan base that Gill had rallied behind him in the forum then bought massive amounts of Gamestop shares in the “Robinhood” trading app – until it prohibited the purchase.
This is for Reddit users: Reddit video downloader.
Reddit’s market value today is estimated at $ 6 billion
Reddit is considered the last big get-together on the internet, where you can announce what you like a little louder and more undisturbed than on the more regulated platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. With its 430 million active users, Reddit plays a special role in that the platform belongs to a large media company. Condé Nast , which otherwise publishes magazines such as “New Yorker”, “Vogue” or “Wired”, bought the start-up for 20 million dollars in 2006, one year after it was founded. As of 2011, Reddit, its market value today is estimated to be six billion dollarsis, a subsidiary of Advance Publications, the parent company of Condé Nast and other media. The platform makes money mainly with ads and premium memberships. In 2014, investors such as Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel and Ron Conway got on board. In 2019, Reddit raised $ 300 million from Chinese online giant Tencent in a funding round.
Reddit is a kind of Internet on the Internet, a finely woven hypertext that consists of 138,000 active discussion forums. These so-called subreddits are supervised by voluntary moderators and differ greatly in tone and style. The forums are usually freely accessible. If you want to add something, you only have to register with an email address.
Reddit breathes the anarchic spirit of the early days of the World Wide Web
If you look at the subreddits, with their heavy text and reduced graphics, they look like a relic from the beginnings of the web; a kind of bulletin board where everyone posts something. There are posts on every topic that are sometimes less, sometimes more commented on. Not everything is legal, some things are disrespectful or tasteless. Reddit breathes the anarchic spirit of the early days of the World Wide Web.
An important difference to Facebook and Twitter is that you can not only like content, that is, “upvote”, but also “downvote”, that is: downgrade. Reddit’s philosophy from the start has been that users should set the agenda themselves. The up and down voting process was intended to neutralize spam and propaganda in a grassroots democratic process. The algorithm only serves as a secondary filter. This self-government worked quite well for a long time.
But after the attacks on the Boston Marathon in 2013, Reddit came under massive criticism: innocent people were suspected in the subreddit “r / findbostonbombers”. Reddit publicly apologized for the “online witch hunt”. But that’s not all: In 2014, nude photos from a celebrity hack appeared on the platform , including photos of Hollywood stars Kate Upton and Jennifer Lawrence, which is piquant as Reddit made money with the indiscretions: To see the photos, numerous users closed paid Premium memberships. The platform, so the allegation, only cleaned parts of its forum of the nude photos.
Similar to Facebook, Reddit’s ranking algorithm has repeatedly pushed controversial topics and fueled the mood. In addition, it became known in 2016 that the Russian troll factory «Internet Research Agency» infiltrated Reddit with fake news. As on Facebook and Twitter, the hackers had created fake accounts and incited users in right-wing forums.
The leadership around Steve Huffman realized too late that the troll activities were rampant – and the laissez-faire policy had failed.
The incidents clearly showed the limits of an open network. Even so, Reddit management persisted in sticking to the free-speech absolutism. It was only late, perhaps too late, that Steve Huffman’s leadership realized that the troll activities were rampant – and that the laissez-faire policy had failed. Reddit has now blocked numerous discussion groups in which anti-Semitic incitement was carried out. The forum “r / The_Donald”, a kind of base camp for the Trumpists and the Alt-Right movement with over 800,000 members, was also closed last year. But the poison that the Trump fans trickled into the capillaries of the platform has long since developed its effect. And the moderation is still quite lax: A high-performance chatbot was able to post unnoticed comments on Reddit for a week.
Even if followers of the conspiracy cult QAnon migrated to imageboards like 4chan or 8chan, where they radicalized themselves further, Reddit is also considered a hotbed of racism. This is doing the platform an injustice insofar as it is supported by a very lively discussion culture. 800 moderators called on CEO Steve Huffman and his fellow board members in an open letter to take stronger action against racist hate speech. That increased the pressure to delete the Trump forum.
The Gamestop episode also helps rehabilitate Reddit’s battered reputation.
The Reddit moderators play an important role, much like the editors at Wikipedia. After Victoria Taylor, head of communications, was kicked out, many Reddit moderators went on strike in 2015 . They asked for more say in the company. This shows how strong the crowd thought is at Reddit. But the moderators were also powerless against the armies of bots and mob.
Now the interesting thing about the Gamestop episode is that Reddit’s battered reputation is being rehabilitated. Both Tesla founder Elon Musk and the left Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended the platform. Many entrepreneurs were secretly happy that the “Reddit rebels” really showed the gamblers on the stock exchange.
Before one reinterprets the action of the Reddit rebels as an anti-capitalist heroic story, one should consider that Reddit is also a for-profit company – and, like the high-frequency traders on the stock exchange, also operates with algorithms. In any case, the Reddit forum “WallStreetBets” is more of a conspiratorial meeting of stock market insiders, where knighthood of fortune is paired with the anti-elitism of millennials.
Even if the small investors lose again in the end, the winner of the Gamestop episode is clear: It’s Reddit.
This is what technology researcher Evgeny Morozov calls it “platform populism”. The share purchases coordinated on Reddit would have nothing to do with a democratization of the financial system.
Reddit is a reservoir for all milieus and interests. The platform attracts anti-capitalist Bernie Sanders supporters as well as Trump fans and greedy small investors. Even if the small investors lose again in the end, the winner of the Gamestop episode is clear: It’s Reddit.