Reddit: The Internet’s Hippest Wet Blanket

“I hope you’ll appreciate that if we just start deleting ratings whenever we feel like it, that we’ve gone down a censorship road that doesn’t take us to a good place.”  –Otis Chandler

 

Less than 17 days after joining Reddit, I was shadowbanned.

I asked administrators why, and they ignored me. The irony of having written a pro-Reddit article just days before didn’t escape me, but even including a link to it in my appeal didn’t get a response. As of the writing of this sentence, my account is languishing in purgatory.

At first, I was pissed. That’s my typical response to confusion. The anger quickly wore off, because I own this blog, so I don’t need the “front page of the internet” to self-publish. Nope. I joined Reddit in 2015 because I wanted to see what my friends told me to join four years ago. As with most internet frenzies, I probably should have heeded their advice at the time. I might have actually enjoyed myself.

Don’t get me wrong, Reddit is still pretty cool. I love user-driven approaches to media, but Reddit’s popularity is both its blessing and its curse. Too many people are trying to become internet celebrities overnight. This has led to heavy usership and frequent abuse on Reddit, which in turn drove corporate to try and rein in said abusers. The result in 2015: prohibitory admins, henchman mods, and cliquish users. It just feels like 13th grade sometimes, and at 174 million users, I’m curious how the most popular stuff on Reddit has less than 8,000 votes. Hmm. Tough crowd.

 

How did I get shadowbanned?

It happened on a Friday. I had some time on my hands. A major project had been moved back indefinitely, so I celebrated by eating an early lunch and answering WritingPrompts the rest of the day. TGIF bitches!

I answered this prompt first:

[WP] Russians systematically begin invading Chuck e Cheeses across America. Chuck E Cheeses unexpectedly responds.

The red, white, and blue banners waved over Chuck-E-Cheeses all across America, but they weren’t American flags, they were Russian. Times were tense, but Dave & Busters stock was way up, so at least a few NASDAQ investors were happy to see it hop over the $30 mark.
Still, most Americans were confused. It had been two days since the first reports came in of well-armed militias taking over the Chuck E Cheeses in Anchorage, AK. But as in most of American history, a few bombs here and some drone strikes there were expected to fix all that. However, today news flashes blared about the one in Boise, ID falling into the New Red Army’s hands. It was like something out of Red Dawn, only really funny, since nobody had been killed yet.

President Obama was as confused as anyone. He even sent a cable to the militia asking them what they wanted. The reply was in Russian, but once it was translated it read in broken English:

“Because America wants to sanction Supreme Leader Putin and befriend Ukranian rats, we have decided to attack the last bulwark of American capitalism – the pizza and game house called Charles’ Cheeses.”

Vice President Biden had to stifle a laugh when it was read aloud in the oval office. President Obama, on the other hand, wasn’t amused.

“What the fuck am I supposed to do? Bomb a bunch of pizza joints? Huh? There are Americans inside those things probably having the best hostage experience in history, playing games and eating pizza, and you want me to bomb them? No, call in SEAL Team 6…and get Tom Leverton on the goddamn phone!”

The Chuck E Cheese CEO sounded edgy.

“Tom, this is the President. What’s the status on your other stores?”

“Oh,er, hi Mr. President…I, er, um…well you know two of them were, uh…”

“Dammit Tom, I know two of them “were, uh”…I’m asking you about the others.”

Leverton was quiet for a moment, and then in a trembling voice said “They have a strange demand, Mr. President.”

Obama’s eyes narrowed: “What sort of demands?”

Tom Leverton’s voice became clearer in an effort to regain some of his self-respect given what he was about to say: “Sir, they want our entire chain to be re-named Showbiz Pizza.”
The President’s eyes went wide: “No fucking way, Tom. Do you hear me? No fucking way. I got food poisoning at a friend’s birthday party at Showbiz Pizza, and that name is banned from my country. I was fucking 22 years old then Tom, why the hell were we even at Showbiz Pizza? No way.”

“But Mr. President,” Tom stuttered, “That’s their only request…”

Obama’s brow furrowed at this new pickle…should he compromise his principles to save the lives of dozens of Americans, or bomb two pizza houses to prove a point?

“Call up the Air Force,” Obama said coldly. “Blow those fuckers back to Moscow, and write up a conciliatory press release saying we don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

John Earnest looked up from his notepad: “Anything in particular you want to say, Mr. President?”

“Yeah,” Obama said, “Put in a quote from Michelle on the dangers of junkfood, and say we’re cracking down on that, too.”

“Brilliant,” whispered Earnest as he jotted it down. “Fucking brilliant.”

Now, I understand I contradicted myself…why are Russian flags flying over America’s 500+ Chuck E Cheeses if only two of them have been taken over, right? What can I say, I don’t spend much time planning or editing my Flash Fiction..

Then I answered this one:

[wp] Google collapses.

Larson Kamrig had worked at Goldman Sachs for a decade. He’d made it through HBS in the 90s, and then the housing collapse in the 2000s. He’d made a name for himself trading tech futures at Citadel in Chicago before moving to NYC and the big dollars. He wasn’t shorting markets now, he was creating them. But today he was watching them crash.

“Dude, Google tanked last night?” Kamrig frantically asked his night trader. “We lost $190 million when London opened, and we stand to lose twice that if it keeps headed down.” He’d never been made physically ill by looking at numbers, but he got nauseous and had to walk away.

He walked briskly over to a TV and turned it on. All the talking heads were discussing what was happening. Google offices were apparently raided by the FBI and CIA the night before, warrants and boxes in hand. The same video of Larry Page in handcuffs kept playing, huge words sweeping across the screen: “Page Defrauds Investors, Google Stock Plummets.”

As the story unfolded, it all kind of made sense. Google, unlike Apple, didn’t actually produce anything, it merely controlled a huge medium by which people could produce things. It seemed that Page figured out his vulnerability as early as 2012, when he started tucking away billions in foreign bank accounts, a princely sum of $270 billion in a single Cayman Islands account.

But as Kamrig sat there, he couldn’t actually believe it, you know? Sure, it made sense in hindsight, but dammit…the internet is mankind’s greatest invention of the modern era, and Google owned 90% of it. What had panicked Page…?

Consumers were less upset than investors. They still had Bing, Yahoo, and various deepweb search engines. Google+ had never caught on, and Android was self-sufficient enough to carry on without its mothership, so it’s not as if phones were turning off everywhere. Larry Page’s betrayal, however, was more significant than what Google offered to consumers and investors.

The FBI cared about the bilking of investors money, but the CIA was there for the information being stored and sold to foreign governments…namely, governments hostile to U.S. interests. His friendship with Sergey Brin went deeper than we’d imagined, and Sergey’s American citizenship masked his true loyalties.

Brin had been meeting with the SVR in secret and selling them mounds of data collected from Google servers. The NSA, which was adept at spying on others, turned out to be helpless in keeping its own information out of the hands of agencies spying on them. Government employees as high as Department heads were being observed by the browser they had been encouraged by their kids and, well, the internet, to use…Google Chrome. Brin had escaped back to Moscow, but Page was facing treason, joining yet another short list of Americans.

As this all unfolded on TV, Larson Kamrig felt a pang in his chest, one that had nothing to do with money. He felt betrayed, not by his risk management department or his teams of analysts, but by whatever principles he still had after years of cheating and stealing. He was finally in the same boat as the rest of America – double-crossed and sold out to he highest bidder.

“Fucking Google,” Larson muttered. “It was a shitty name anyway.”

I was much prouder of that one. Financial fiction is one of my strong suits, so when I read “Google collapses” I knew I wasn’t gonna write about a worldwide shutdown of the internet. I was going to leverage it as social commentary on the precarious realities of Wall St.

After I finished the Google story, I went back and gave positive feedback to another writer responding to the Chuck E Cheese prompt. I told /u/WildBilll33t that his “screenplay layout really puts me there in the arcade room.” What can I say, I’m a nice guy.

Finally, I ended my Friday on a musical note:

[WP] Eminem was right… There IS a Slim Shady in all of us. They all begin to “stand up” and make themselves known.

You act like you’ve never seen a Reddit writer before
Prompts stacked to the door
Like we couldn’t write anymore
Reddit writers galore
Most of them bored
Ready to write anything.
__
It’s our duty to..
“Oh wait, no wait, you’re kidding”
“He isn’t following the prompt correctly, now is he?
And ArranMars said….
Nothing, you idiots, ArranMars posted this shit originally, didn’t he?
__
Feminist writers hated Eminem
tika tika tika, slim shady didn’t give a fuck then
But look at him, waltzing around
Recording with ‘you know who’
Signing artists like ‘who the fuck’
“Yeah, I know, that album sucked.”
__
He’s definitely got a couple of screws up in his head loose
But no worse than millions of white kids in their bedrooms
For hours, just listening to his tunes, they were like mushrooms
Bringin images to high schoolers’ brains like bad cartoons
__
Your daughter’s fuckin hot, your daughter’s fuckin hot
And if I’m lucky, you’ll set us up, but probably not
And that’s the message Shady was selling and I bought
That I can say a bunch of shit and not get caught
__
Of course I knew what intercourse was
But not before fourth grade
That’s a bit young, I’d say
__
We ain’t nothin but writers
Well, all of us are typers, but it’s the same thing inside of us
But if we’re all at work, like I am
It’s hard to find time to write rhymes the way that I can
But if you feel like I feel, I gotta wrap it man
Yelling like a mad man, here’s the chorus for my fans
__
I’m slim shady, yes I’m the real shady
All you other slim shadys are also slim shady
So won’t this shady paradox please just stop, please just stop, please just stop…

If you rap that to the tune of The Real Slim Shady, you’ll appreciate it a little more. I was the only person to respond to that WP, but instead of widespread approval for what ended up being almost 2 hours of work, I got this:

shadowbanned comment

 

When I was logged out, I could still see my Eminem post, so I’m pretty sure I wasn’t shadowbanned for that. I tried to summon the shadowgods and ask why I’d been banned, but I got no explanation.

As I browsed through my activity to search for the culprit, I realized one of my posts had been taken down. It was the Chuck E Cheese response. I could still see my story when I was logged in, but it showed up as deleted when I was logged out.

The mod’s comment below that deletion said:

rule 2 violation

First, did someone really upvote a mod’s default removal notification? Second, my post obviously didn’t break Rule #2, since my reply very clearly included the company’s CEO and Russians, so I was at a loss here.

Unfortunately, I’m not the only one confused and frustrated. Reddit is gaining quite the reputation for censorship and regulation. In 2012, mods were accused of unfairly removing popular material, and in 2013, Reddit started banning climate change deniers. Their own default subreddit for technology was downgraded in April 2014 when certain words (e.g. Anonymous, anti-piracy, net neutrality, etc.) triggered comment deletion. When the Daily Dot story broke, shit hit the fan at Reddit Inc, and admins and top-level mods rolled over on lower mods, forced all but two of them out, and declared the subreddit to be under new management.

Then there was that Unidan shadowban a few months later, but he was guilty of creating multiple accounts and manipulating votes, so the ban was justified. Still, that fiasco dragged more than a few Redditors out of the woodwork to point out “death pools” full of high-karma accounts, raising suspicions that active users are easier, more popular targets for vindictive admins.

A couple of months after Unidan, a user was banned for asking Julian Assange about Reddit censorship during an AMA session. Two years ago, the gaming/tech outlet, Kotaku, was banned. Yeah, that’s right – an entire website was banned from Reddit. As much as I dislike the Gawker family, it seems childish and hypocritical for an open-source aggregate to exclude content from a legitimate publisher. I mean, come on…there’s a subreddit supporting the philosophy of rape, and I got shadowbanned for breaking a rule I didn’t even break?

Eh, whatever. I created a new account with a subliminal middle finger pointed directly at 520 3rd, and it seems to be doing fine.

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