from the what-is-this?-Reddigg? dept
Mike's coverage of leaks showing the NSA and GCHQ using the internet to "manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations" (as reported by Glenn Greenwald at firstlook.org) hit the front page of Reddit yesterday, generating lots of traffic for Techdirt. This traffic truly should have gone to firstlook.org, but never made it there. A look at the top comments on our coverage show why:
Why is this story being removed from all the popular subs over and over by mods?
Message the admins about the censorship of this article by /r/news and /r/worldnews mods. They have never seemed to care about this in the past but if enough users message them it will hopefully at least provoke a response of some kind. Something needs to be done about this or this site needs to be abandoned as a platform for legitimate political discourse.A little further down in the thread:
Important Update: So, it turns out that the /r/news mod /u/BipolarBear0 who has been deleting all the instances of this story has previously been caught running a voting brigade to get anti-Semitic content upvoted on /r/conspiracy to discredit the sub. A fact which he admitted to me in another thread just a few minutes ago (he claims he was doing an "experiment"...) . This guy needs to be banned from the site.
Last night, the original article from firstlook.org was taken down and tagged as "not appropriate subreddit." Meanwhile, another copy of the story was allowed to rise, despite having an editorialized title. Later, the version that had been taken down--which was older and had fewer upvotes because it had been removed--was put back up and the younger version with more upvotes was removed, allegedly because the topic was "already covered."Censorship on reddit? It seems almost ridiculous considering the amount of subreddits available for those submitting stories. But it's there all the same (although not actually "censorship" so much as a bad direction for a community based on meritocracy to go in). According to commenters, both r/news and r/worldnews (two of the biggest subreddits), the firstlook.org post was removed over and over again once they began collecting upvotes, forcing each submission to start over at "0" and face an uphill struggle for visibility.
This tactic has been used to keep other similar stories from rising, such as the one about the NSA sharing information with Israel.
Time and time again, the content on /r/worldnews, /r/technology, /r/news, and /r/politics is manipulated by moderator intervention.
While everyone lets the implications of this kind of content manipulation on reddit regarding stories about online content manipulation sink in, I think it's worth noting that /r/technology has a bot that removes stories about the NSA.
Ninja edit: subscribe to /r/undelete and /r/longtail if you're interested in keeping an eye on popular content that's been removed by mods.
Screenshots and lists of removed posts have been compiled showing the various subs' mods' actions to bury the firstlook.org story. But why? Sooner or later, it was bound to sneak through, like ours did (a link to the Examiner's coverage did as well).
Speculation on this runs rampant, but most commenters agree that too many mods are abusing their power in order to bury anything they don't like. We saw some of this infighting late last year when r/politics composed a very arbitrary list [since rescinded, mostly] of banned submissions sources (including us) in an effort to crack down on overly-politicized articles (on a politics sub no less) and what the mods declared to be "blogspam," a catchall term that somehow included award-winning news outlets like Mother Jones.
The decision to clamp down on news detailing this particular leak brought a whole lot of irony with it. The efforts made to remove an unflattering story about intelligence agencies' dirty little efforts to use the internet to destroy reputations and manipulate public perception led to tongue-in-cheek speculation that Reddit itself is compromised. (And there's certainly no way to be sure it isn't…)
Techdirt may have been the inadvertent beneficiary of bad behavior by subreddit mods, but that's hardly reason to celebrate. If the mod situation is as bad as it appears to be, Reddit is going to start heading down the path of Digg, whose infamous "bury brigade" worked tirelessly to ensure only certain news coverage made its way to the top of the list.
This isn't an easily-solvable problem, thanks to Reddit's hydra-like structure, with hundreds of subreddits and no clear demarcation of command. The corporate Reddit, which ostensibly "controls" the community, has largely taken a hands-off approach. This is still the best option and the reversal of the r/politics arbitrary ban list shows the community still has the power to solve some of its mod problems. But widespread story burial, coupled with evidence of subreddits being gamed by mods, isn't exactly comforting, especially considering Reddit's journalistic aspirations.
Like any platform with millions of users, issues will never be non-existent. But a failure to address the abuse of power by mods of larger subreddits will hurt Reddit in the long run. Power coupled with an almost-complete lack of accountability is always a bad thing. But this problem will need to be solved internally by the subreddits themselves. There's power in numbers, something subreddit subscribers should be able to leverage to start cleaning this mess up.