Reddit Mods Bury Glenn Greenwald's Story On GCHQ/NSA Use Of Internet To 'Destroy Reputations'

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 hit the front page of Reddit yesterday, generating lots of traffic for Techdirt. This traffic truly should have gone to, 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.

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.

A little further down in the thread:

Last night, the original article from 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.”

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.

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 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.

Screenshots and lists of removed posts have been compiled showing the various subs’ mods’ actions to bury the 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.

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Comments on “Reddit Mods Bury Glenn Greenwald's Story On GCHQ/NSA Use Of Internet To 'Destroy Reputations'”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There’s ‘bought and paid for’, and then there’s ‘blatantly bought and paid for’, and pulling a stunt like this, on a story like that… whatever moron(s) at the NSA/GCHQ were trying to do damage control need to get their heads checked, as their brain functions seemed to have flat-lined here.

Even if they truly had nothing to do with it(possible, but unlikely I’d say), given the content and nature of the story that was being buried, everyone will assume they were guilty anyway.

Duke (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Obvious; which is why it has been posted over 70 times across various subreddits. And that’s just the original link, not secondary articles, or the TechDirt analysis, or the follow-up article about it being censored.

For being great at social and technical engineering, the NSA really suck.

Perhaps some subreddit mods are just fed up with the same story being posted again and again.

Or perhaps it is actually GCHQ’s JTRIG lot are being really sneaky; posting all these extra versions and comments about censorship – causing distrust of the subreddits’ mods, reddit in general, and distracting from the real story. It seems to fit well with was in the leak. But perhaps that is too paranoid of me.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve left a few subs in Reddit because of mod intervention. Places were it looked over and over that particular subjects were not to be discussed.

Having said that, there are lots of folk that cross post the same article again and again in various subs looking for karma. I mean how many times do you want to read the same headline, leading to the same or similar article, in how many different subs? Some cross posters are so prolific at this posting the same article across various subs that it’s become a pollution problem of titles. So much so that some of those more prolific posters have been being shadow banned to reduce some of the pollution.

Where and when is enough enough?

anon says:

Re: Re: Seriously?

It is at the top and it has a lot of votes but that is only becasue there was such an outcry about it, if the reddit community had not questioned the deletion of so many threads there would be nothign about the nsa and their tactics online at all. So the people won in this case but that is only becasue the story got so much attention from people, what happens when a story is blocked before people can get access to it, and if you say that would not happen go to worldnews and tell me that every story there is in the msm, it is not and all the admins have to do is block anything about a specific story to keep it hidden. Yes eventually people will post and ask questions but it will be such a small group becasue they cut the story before enough people had read it or commented on it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Noticing this, coupled with a brief conversation with /u/BipolarBear0, drew my attention to the subreddit rules of /r/news and /r/worldnews. Particularly:

Your post will likely be removed if it:
* is an opinion/analysis or advocacy piece

It appears that this is vague enough that the “analysis” clause is the cudgel being leveraged to suppress stories.

Nearly every story linked could be argued to provide an analysis of some sort, and in all honesty analysis is often a key component of good journalism.

There definitely appears to be some disproportionate enforcement of the opinion/analysis clause against NSA related material.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Techdirt is definitely analysis rather than a news source, esp. since every article links to an actual news source that Techdirt comments on. Unless you consider what Mike et al says about the news is news, the source is what should be posted on Reddit News instead of Techdirt.

There are plenty of other places on Reddit for Techdirt content.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

Seriously, Reddit

I tried to use reddit as a platform for getting some of my writing read-and I did it a few times, then nothing.

It’s pretty obvious that the entire structure, while being huge and ‘uncontrollable’, is still a high school cafeteria, with the popular people running it.

That being said, Reddit is not what it could have been, now or in the future. It’s a mess, and it’s going to get worse.

Want some cute puppy pictures to show off? Then Reddit is good.

But for real news, forget it. If you have any kind of opinion about something it’s going to get buried fast by whoever runs that particular sub-reddit.

Now I don’t even bother. It’s a waste of time. Why was anyone really expecting anything else?

It’s being run by human beings, with all of their particular flaws and biases.

anon says:

Re: Seriously, Reddit

I have read some very interesting stories on reddit and found news that is not seen anywhere in the msm. I dont know what you are doing on reddit but if you create a subreddit for what you want to do and advise people it is there maybe you will have more success, remember the internet is full of trolls and kiddies though so dont expect to wall off your garden and only allow the best in the business there, and actually sometimes when a person trolls they come up with some good arguments that take the conversation in a completely different direction and help overcome stereotypes.

Kenpachi says:

Just trying to see the whole forest...

So… Being Reddit a major social network player, it’s pretty obvious it’s been compromised for a long time now. They’re just “doing their job” [sic] with this piece.

The bigger problem I see, is that if people loose trust in Reddit as a platform, they “win” anyway. After all, if it gets digged, it’ll be just one huge platform less they have to infiltrate.

In the meantime, moderators will get defensive, users’ll get mad @ them and @ the site as a whole… and nobody wins, and by nobody I mean not “the good guys”, on each side of the browser.

Tactics deployed: instant profit.

Tactics discovered and denounced: Site looses trust and eventually collapses. Delayed profit. (But huge jackpot nonetheless)

Infiltrate > Divide and Conquer 101

What am I missing here?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Just trying to see the whole forest...

Such tactics might work in the short term, but it’s very much a game of whack-a-mole, where they compromise and destroy the reputation of one site, and half a dozen pop up to replace it.

Now, you could argue that that’s also going to plan, driving people into separate groups like that, but I’m just not sure how effective it could be long term, as the internet is one of the greatest tools for communication yet created(hence why so many governments hate it with a passion), so even ‘spread out’ like that, they’ll still inevitably interact with each other.

anon says:

Re: Just trying to see the whole forest...

And as happened with DIGG another site will take over and do even better, learning form others past experience. The internet routes around problems and when something does not work 100% someone will try to improve on the idea, until eventually you get more and more reddit type sites that work better than reddit and eventually completely take over the traffic, just as what happened to digg the same can and probably will happen to reddit.

Kenpachi says:

Re: well it shouldn't be...

It could be another powerful tool for social gathering (at a massive level) and where you are welcome to engage in elevated discussions. That’s what powers that be fear the most.

Yes, we know it, internet is 99% porn & trolls. Still, that 1% is huge and the impact those virtual oasis can have in real life is proven time and time again.

A smarter(?) move would be to NEVER trash a site that is deemed untrustworthy, otherwise common folks would be doing exactly what those in power want, hopping on the mouse wheel, stuck on an infinite loop of social sites that take a lot of time to develop, spread and establish. (That often takes a lot of time rather than little, and that is LOST time, which they also capitalize).

No, no, a common “base case” would be to get the people in charge of the site to put a system in place that guarantees transparency, at the very least in terms of Moderators and Management. (Yes, I know, guaranteed transparency belongs to the Realm of Utopia… but you get the idea. If I were running the site, or if I were a mod, I would have to answer to somebody for my actions. I would stand by my decision if I ban a subreddit and would have to give all the details as to why I made that call. My actions would then have to be audited by a group of peers or superiors.

Anyway… just some thoughts thrown into the ocean. It can’t hurt to brainstorm a little…

Disclaimer: I’ve never used Reddit, I find that format particularly confusing. I do acknowledge however the potential it has to gather people and minds from all walks of life. And that’s a huge power. And those corrupt in power know that far better than us. Sites like that should never be given up easily. To pin point the rotten apples and expose them should be a must. But never to burn the entire box.

quawonk says:

Re: Re: well it shouldn't be...

The bad apples can and have been exposed before. The problem is that only a very small number of people have the ability to actually hold those bad apples to account through suspension, banning, etc. The community can do nothing but complain.

Lack of accountability is reddit’s biggest problem. It sounds crazy, but the only thing that could change it would be a sort of elections system for moderators. Again, sounds nuts, but that’s the only thing I can see that could change this.

Kenpachi says:

Re: Re: Re: Lack of accountability is the name of the game

Indeed. I’ve assumed long ago that the sociopaths running the Military/Intelligence[sic]/Surveillance Industry hold that as a core principle to exploit to their advantage. It’s a rookie’s attack vector: to undermine any reputation and trust an organization may have built over time (in this case via infiltration, disinformation, obfuscation and other methods older than the sun.

That’s why it’s paramount to defend against such a critical and vulnerable aspect of any social entity.

On that token, there’s good news and bad news: On the bright side, many strategies can be put in place and should be enforced 24/7, and you pointed out some of them. If I may I’d like to expand where you left off; I would argue that having a “small” group of people as the “Accountability & Transparency Police” is not a bad thing per se. Actually, if implemented correctly it could be very efficient. (Of course the mere total would have to come up from a ratio of the total users and some other meaningful metrics so as to be able to keep up with the data flow, but this whole point is a matter of a long debate).

As far as the community’s role, I think it’s essential that it complains, not once or every now and then, but every single time. And that property of a community, the ability to pin-point and address wrongdoing is not something to be taken lightly. On top of that, I posit that if anything, a group of commons has three powers that are both rights and obligations: to complain, to be vigilant that best practices are observed at all times, and to denounce/report wrongdoing WITH evidence (such as time-lapses, screen-caps, logs, etc).

All that falls under the responsibility of the entire community, and it should be. Of course, if that community perceives no upper structure of accountability, no system that will look into these things, it all falls apart. So every layer has duties to fulfill.

Admins, Mods and Managers can not do the “job” of the community and vice-versa.

On the Dark Side, It’s just another canonical example of an arms-race, a never-ending battle between measures and countermeasures, because as you can imagine, even IF (huge if) a strong-organic-dynamic system is put in place and it actually works, it’s just another big target to conquer in the eyes of these pseudo-soldiers without a war or a real enemy to fight. And they have endless money and time to hack at the problem. Of course, that should never be a deterrent for trying.

The Ultimate Facepalm is that in the Information Age, with one foot in the 21st century, Sysadmins, Mods, as well as Regular Systems/Networks Users, we all have to get proficient in the Sun Tsu’s Art of War, and very fast.

So far that’s been a must only for Management and Military, but as information has always been and always will be the ultimate power, we all have to catch up. That is, of course, if we innocent and free people of the World would want to stand a chance.

Jim says:

Who reads Reddit anymore?

This is the serious question…only trolls, not real people, looking for real information. Congratulations NSA, you just pissed off a bunch of people sitting in their mother’s basement.

I don’t trust any source with amateur “moderators”. Those sites are always worthless.

I can decide for myself what’s important, which is why I read this blog. The comments are open, and I can decide who’s real and who’s flack.

anon says:

Re: Who reads Reddit anymore?

Shame , you lose a lot of very interesting comments by not reading reddit, i have been using reddit for many years and as long as you ignore trolls there is a hell of a lot of very informative information in the comments, damn just look at the type of people that have commented there, you have astranoughts and physicists and may other professionals at the top of their game commenting and making corrections when people discuss a subject. This is much more worththy of viewing than people making simple interesting but uninformed comments on a site like this, although saying that i love techdirt and visit every morning to see what they have been discussing.

Nathan says:

Obviously, Reddit is compromised

A story that runs regarding GCHQ using employees to use COINTELPRO type tactics to discredit those unfriendly to policy X is censored by someone who has been demonstrably shown to have used exactly those tactics to discredit /r/conspiracy, and you’re willing to _speculate_ that Reddit is compromised? I’d say it’s definite- and Reddit is obviously one of the forum sites that you’d expect them to spend a lot of time.

Drew Smith (profile) says:

Some more work should have been put into this article.

The firstlook article was being deleted because it wasn’t a news source – non-news sources are deleted from the news subreddit. The firstlook article was a post about a story. Eventually it came from a factual news source,, and was let through just fine.

Secondly, the mod talked about in that quote, BipolarBear0, was accused of deleting the post but it was based on nothing – there’s no evidence that he did. Techdirt has reported on this as fact, though! The mod gives his side of the story here: . The mod also wasn’t caught upvoting anti-Semitic content in the conspiracy. He posted some racist threads but it was the readers of the conspiracy subreddit who heaviliy upvoted it.

Robert says:

Drop Reddit Now

It is really dumb to fight censorship on reddit. Reality is web sites are a dime a dozen, don’t fight censorship on reddit, it is a failure, tell everyone to drop it, like the propaganda channel it is becoming and likely was purposefully designed that way as a replacement for digg, where the intent was to bury specific stories and commentators.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve been a long time member of Reddit. Even tried Digg long ago before going to Reddit. At one time Reddit was great for discussion if you can believe that. Over time with popularity this has gone down hill. Tons of members have left Reddit over shadowbanning, article deletions, member banning, thread deletions, and a general lack of quality mods without an agenda.

Most are going to a Reddit clone at . After near 8 years, I’ve left Reddit for earlier events very similar to those described here.

UWN says:

Post this or anything like this on /r/UnbiasedWorldNews. A replacement for /r/worldnews, /r/news /r/POLITIC, /r/politics,
It will not get deleted there. We welcome any news story from a legit news site. No censorship of such posts. Up and down votes decide if something should live or die on this site. All are welcome. It is still small, but you will not be censored. Help me grow it into a true replacement for the insulting nanny/dinosaur of /r/worldnews, /r/news, /r/politics.

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