“You have been banned for wrongthink”
Reddit is dead.
At least artistically and creatively speaking.
What started as a bastion of independent thought, Reddit has slowly devolved into a den of groupthink, censorship, and corporate greed.
“It’s true, both the government and private companies can censor stuff. But private companies are a little bit scarier because they have no constitution to answer to, they’re not elected really — all the protections we’ve built up against government tyranny don’t exist for corporate tyranny.
— Aaron Swartz, co-Founder of Reddit
There are three fundamental problems with Reddit:
- Moderator Abuse
- Corporate Greed
But first, you should understand that the history of Reddit doomed it from the start.
The Secret History of Reddit
Reddit was launched in June 2005 by two 22-year-old graduates from the University of Virginia, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian. The site was so small that the two co-founders had to spam links just to make Reddit seem active.
Later that year the Reddit team made arguably the most important decision of their lives: they hired a new co-founder, Aaron Swartz.
If you don’t know who Aaron Swartz was, he was a young prodigy and computer genius who, among other things, helped create RSS.
He was also an outspoken activist for free speech and open information, which made him a lot of enemies in high places.
Eventually, Aaron left Reddit after they were bought by Conde Nast (owner of Wired Magazine), but this is when he became a complete revolutionary.
Aaron became something of a Wiki Leaks-style journalist leaking high-level secrets against corporate power. He released countless documents including the most damaging that law professors at Stanford were receiving lobbying money from oil companies such as Exxon Mobile.
Shortly after, the FBI began monitoring Aaron Swartz and he was arrested for downloading academic journals from MIT in an attempt to make them freely available online.
They threw the book at Aaron by fining him over a million dollars, charging him with 13 felonies, and giving him a 35-year prison sentence. This was seen as an act of pure revenge by the government and because of it, Aaron Swartz took his own life at the age of 26.
“I don’t want to be happy. I just want to change the world.” — Aaron Swartz
And you know what Reddit did? They scrubbed Aaron Swartz’s name from their history. If you go to the “about” page on Reddit, it makes no mention of him whatsoever.
Aaron Swartz should be a martyr, instead, he’s been erased.
It Got Worse: Censorship
After the death of Aaron Swartz, things only got worse for Reddit.
Newly appointed CEO Ellen Pao made an announcement, and I quote, that “Reddit is not a platform for free speech.”
This was the first step in what would be mass censorship on the platform.
In the years that followed Reddit banned over 7000 subreddits left and right in a never-ending stream of censorship. But the most controversial censorship occurred after the Orlando nightclub shooting.
After the shooting, the subreddit /r/news became a hub for people to discuss the event and share news articles. However, the mods of /r/news had a very different idea.
They began mass-deleting any posts that criticized Islam or mentioned the shooter’s motive of radical Islamic terrorism. They also banned anyone who spoke out against this censorship. Mods became power-hungry dictators, erasing anyone who dared to challenge them.
Reddit’s Mods Are Mall Cops Slowly Killing the Platform
Moderators on Reddit are like hall monitors who bust you for being late two seconds after the bell rang. They are the kids that ask for more homework They’re petty, they’re annoying, and they have too much power.
The mod system is completely volunteer-based which means that anyone can become a mod without any qualifications.
One of my favorite posts on Reddit had this to say about moderators:
“Mods are basically unpaid mall cops for reddit… except even mall cops know they are a joke. I think Reddit counts on the fact there are enough lonely losers out there who will moderate the site for free in exchange for the illusion of authority. These are shameful, powerless, and deeply troubled people looking to exert a measure of power anyway they can — the same kind of people who would become abusive police officers and border agents if they weren’t already so monstrously overweight.”
And because moderators are volunteer-based, they can be bribed. In fact, there have been numerous cases of mods being bribed by companies to censor certain topics or ban competing subreddits.
(Bribery taking place here, here, and here)
Here is a short list of the worst most corruptable mods on Reddit:
- /u/awkwardtheturtle (mod of multiple subreddits) was caught pinning his own posts to the top of subreddits for popularity and called all critics against him incels for no apparent reason.
- /u/gallowboob (mod of /r/ relationship advice) would shill his friend’s marketing companies on the front page and would ban any account criticizing him.
And Finally, Corporate Greed
I only recently found out that Ghislaine Maxwell, wife to Jeffery Epstein, ran one of the most powerful Reddit accounts on the website. In fact, it was the eighth-most popular account by karma on Reddit.
I won’t get into the implications of that — as it could be an article on its own — but it's only one case of elites having massive power on Reddit.
The bigger issue is that Reddit has several competing corporate interests.
One of them is a Chinese tech giant called Tencent which made a $150 million investment in Reddit. Tencent is the world’s biggest video game company and is notorious for selling its user’s information.
Another big investor is Sequoia Capital who was found earlier this year to be investing in corrupt companies responsible for fraudulent practices.
All of these investments have one thing in common: they’ve made the website worse for users. Now — just as I wrote about YouTube — Reddit is tailored for a better corporate experience, not a better user experience.
Reddit was the first social media platform I fell in love with. It’s where I found my start as a writer and it’s helped me procrastinate many late-night essays.
But it’s time to go.
It’s become a shell of its former self and something that Aaron Swartz would not be proud of. And even though Reddit is pretty much a corporate propaganda machine the users still think it’s a secret club for intellectual dynamos that “fucking love science.”
No matter what you believe in, wisdom isn’t achieved living inside a bubble of utopian ideals.
Although some of my favorite online communities are on Reddit like /r/FoodNYC or /r/OnePunchMan, for the most part, I think it’s time to move on.
I’m glad I can create content on Medium where the only instance of banning an article I can recall is when Tim Denning had a nude person in his cover image lol. Anyway, thanks for reading.
Join 2000+ people on my Substack for a limited copy of my new eBook “Gold2.0.”