Reddit joins the ranks of social media platforms that are taking heat both from the government and the public over allegations that the self styled “front page of the internet” social media site was used to spread Russian propaganda to influence the 2016 Presidential election.
Reddit acknowledged on Monday that it had deleted several hundred accounts in 2015 and 2016 that were suspected of questionable activity, prompting a quest for further information from the site by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Much of the propaganda inserted by the accounts with supposed ties to the alleged Kremlin troll farm “Internet Research Agency” are said to have gained wide circulation in the subreddits supportive of both Trump and Clinton.
Reddit’s CEO addressed the issue in a post this past Monday, where he discussed issues relative to Russian propaganda and social media. The Daily Beast broke the news on this matter and reports:
Reddit users rebelled en masse against the site’s CEO for concealing Russian troll activity the site now admits it knew about, and for not working fast enough to ban dangerous and extremist communities.
Reddit’s CEO Steve Huffman admitted the site has been targeted by at least “a few hundred” troll accounts in an announcement to Reddit users on Monday, four days after a Daily Beast investigation confirmed for the first time that Russia’s troll farm used the platform.
Reddit has not responded to repeated requests by The Daily Beast for comment about The Daily Beast’s investigation, which showed Russia’s Internet Research Agency used American proxies to access the site.
Based on that reporting, Senate investigators are looking into opening up probes on the troll farm’s use of Reddit and Tumblr, according to The Washington Post.
Huffman’s answers to questions from users were voted down so heavily on the site’s rating system, they were quickly buried beneath further criticism of the company’s handling of extremism on the platform.
The CEO was asked by a Reddit user why he won’t ban Reddit’s r/The_Donald, a pro-Donald Trump subreddit that is known to disrupt other communities, ban dissent, and glorify hate speech.
“Banning them probably won’t accomplish what you want. However, letting them fall apart from their own dysfunction probably will,” he wrote. “Their engagement is shrinking over time, and that’s much more powerful than shutting them down outright.”
Of course, the Washington Post wasted no time in jumping on the subject, supporting internet censorship in order to fight Russian propaganda and other extremist, divisive perspectives which are alleged to be contagiously spreading via these and other social media platforms. The Washington Post tells us that Reddit CEO Steve Huffman
…acknowledged that Reddit more broadly suffered from “indirect propaganda” that was posted and shared by thousands of users who are “mostly American, and appear to be unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda.” That includes tweets from well-documented, since-shuttered Internet Research Agency accounts, like @TEN_GOP, which claimed to speak for Tennessee Republicans.
Spokeswomen for Reddit and for Tumblr’s parent company, Oath, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), did not immediately respond on Monday. But the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, said the latest reports highlight the need for other tech companies to study their own platforms for potential misuse.
“We have continually seen that the IRA’s sophisticated and extensive use of social media — not only Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, but also other platforms — shows a keen understanding of the power of social media in shaping public discourse,” he said in a statement. “I would encourage all of the social media companies to take a much closer look at how their platforms and services could be used to manipulate their users’ trust and attention.”
Reddit and Tumblr are the latest tech giants to field questions from congressional investigators. Last year, House and Senate lawmakers set their sights on Facebook, Google and Twitter, grilling the companies’ executives at a trio of hearings in the fall.
Over the course of the 2016 election, more than 146 million U.S. users on Facebook and its photo-sharing platform, Instagram, may have viewed content posted by the Internet Research Agency, Facebook revealed at the time. Twitter has said at least 1.4 million interacted with similar disinformation, too. And Google flagged that more than 300,000 visitors to YouTube appeared to have viewed propaganda videos.
In many cases, these posts, ads and other content touched on racial, religious or other hot-button social and political issues, with an apparent aim of driving contentious debate and sowing unrest — both online and off.
Warner, for one, expressed reservations with Reddit back in September 2017, fearing it may have helped amplify Russian propaganda online. Privately, staffers for the lawmaker soon questioned the company about the matter, the person close to the panel said.
Meanwhile, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), urged Reddit and similar, major online platforms on Monday to make more data available about the potential extent of Russia’s efforts online.
“We hope and expect Reddit, Tumblr and other companies to thoroughly research both paid advertising and organic content that can be traced to Russia’s disinformation campaign, and to provide that information to the committee,” Schiff said in a statement. “I have repeatedly urged the social media companies to share data among themselves and prepare a joint report for the committee on how these platforms were used interchangeably to reinforce the Russian messages, and I continue to hope that they will do so.”
Alleged Russian propaganda is everywhere for the liberal or Never Trumper who looks for it. It’s on every social media platform, it’s in the color of their ice cream, it’s under their bed, and you are falling prey to it by sharing and expressing your opinions on social media; because the Russians talked about it on social media too. Reddit, and Tumblr, are the newest victims of the Russophobe straw grasping that must have something new to add to the Russiagate story every so often in order to keep it alive and keep it in the headlines. For the liberal media with a hammer, everything looks like a Russian nail.