25 votes

By Ending Default Communities, Reddit Increased Disinformation

43 comments

  1. [6]
    dubteedub Link
    @DivestTrump is a former Reddit default mod and previously wrote this extremely well researched post on how r/The_Donald was promoting Russian propaganda https://archive.is/qIDX7 I think this...

    @DivestTrump is a former Reddit default mod and previously wrote this extremely well researched post on how r/The_Donald was promoting Russian propaganda

    https://archive.is/qIDX7

    I think this paragraph of the current OP here is useful in proving what a lot of us have been saying for awhile that Reddit's periodic callings of its worst offending subreddits is not really effective in the long run because they lack follow through and let the users continue to shift to new subs unabated.

    Broken down by day, the data shows a significant, though temporary, decrease that coincided with the banning of several alt-right subreddits. The traffic quickly rerouted through disinformation anchor subreddits such as “The_Donald” and “conspiracy”. Also of note, spikes of activity from Russia are generally followed by similar spikes from "useful idiots" demonstrating Russian agendas fuel news outlets beyond their immediate control.

    21 votes
    1. [4]
      DivestTrump Link Parent
      Until reddit addresses the root problem, they're just redirecting bad behavior rather than eliminating it. Incels, red pillers, q anon larpers, pizzagaters and whatever comes next will feed from...

      Until reddit addresses the root problem, they're just redirecting bad behavior rather than eliminating it. Incels, red pillers, q anon larpers, pizzagaters and whatever comes next will feed from T_D and conspiracy until the spin-off subs are banned and then use those subs to regroup and make new spin-off subs.

      I was really puzzled by the increase from eliminating defaults. At first, I thought a sub was created at that time or there was a significant news event. I even looked up when crossposting and posting to profiles was launched. Nothing else lined up with the huge increase of traffic. Eliminating defaults lines up to the day. At the time, I think I was on the fence about the possible negative impacts, but accepted it as an inevitability. I was probably more concerned with regular spam at the time.

      I think this data demonstrates where community moderation altogether is most lacking. Reddit needs in-house moderation to avoid state-sponsored propaganda, but their efforts so far haven't produced anything significant.

      The "war room" was nothing more than PR. Don't hold your breath waiting for their debrief. I sent them all of these domains weeks before the election. Zero follow up beyond acknowledging receipt.

      14 votes
      1. Cosmos Link Parent
        Also a former default mod here. It truly baffles me why people who aren't acting in bad faith still volunteer to mod. Every other social media company pays people to perform the same exact jobs...

        Also a former default mod here. It truly baffles me why people who aren't acting in bad faith still volunteer to mod. Every other social media company pays people to perform the same exact jobs they are doing. How has there not been a single demand from any of the mod teams for compensation?

        The admins will never address any of the issues you mentioned on their own. They are making far too much money from ignoring them. The only solution is either government regulation, or a revolt from the mods.

        And the scariest thing is the way the admins are trying to rile up their own users and use them to fight regulation that hurts their bottom line.

        8 votes
      2. [2]
        Archimedes Link Parent
        What would be your suggestion on addressing the root of the problem? Do you think banning T_D and other obvious subs would help?

        What would be your suggestion on addressing the root of the problem? Do you think banning T_D and other obvious subs would help?

        4 votes
        1. DivestTrump Link Parent
          I absolutely think banning T_D is in order. Their mod team completely ignores violent content and disinformation regularly. At this point, it's the fallback sub and breeding ground for the worst...

          I absolutely think banning T_D is in order. Their mod team completely ignores violent content and disinformation regularly. At this point, it's the fallback sub and breeding ground for the worst content on reddit. I would accept fully replacing the mod team, but I wouldn't trust that until I saw results.

          12 votes
    2. Jimmni Link Parent
      The periodic culling of the worst subreddits is a joke. I was glad to see watchpeopledie be kicked off the site, as I hated stumbling into the submissions (this was before any filtering)....

      The periodic culling of the worst subreddits is a joke. I was glad to see watchpeopledie be kicked off the site, as I hated stumbling into the submissions (this was before any filtering). Curiosity got the better of me the other day, though, and I clicked a link to watchpeopledieoutside wondering how it differed from watchpeopledieinside (it was very late, I wasn't thinking clearly and it was labelled innocuously...) Now I have a new image of horrific suffering to live with. There should be daily or even weekly bannings of subs that so clearly break the site's rules or host such clearly objectionable content - especially now reddit themselves are hosting a lot of it.

      5 votes
  2. [4]
    Archimedes Link
    The circle charts are a pretty terrible data visualization choice. So much wasted space and very difficult to read. I can't really tell what they're supposed to represent, but I'd bet a standard...

    The circle charts are a pretty terrible data visualization choice. So much wasted space and very difficult to read. I can't really tell what they're supposed to represent, but I'd bet a standard bar or line chart would probably be a better fit.

    7 votes
    1. [3]
      DivestTrump Link Parent
      Bar chart weekly Bar chart daily My first attempt using LibreOffice for charts. cc: @arghdos

      Bar chart weekly

      Bar chart daily

      My first attempt using LibreOffice for charts. cc: @arghdos

      8 votes
      1. Algernon_Asimov (edited ) Link Parent
        The jump in volume in April 2017 that you refer to in your article is instantly visible in these bar charts. I couldn't see it at all in those radial graphs. Thanks for this.

        The jump in volume in April 2017 that you refer to in your article is instantly visible in these bar charts. I couldn't see it at all in those radial graphs. Thanks for this.

        9 votes
      2. Archimedes Link Parent
        Much better. If you're open to further suggestions, I think a flat stacked bar chart would probably be better than the 3D thing and the time axis less cluttered would help.

        Much better. If you're open to further suggestions, I think a flat stacked bar chart would probably be better than the 3D thing and the time axis less cluttered would help.

        7 votes
  3. [7]
    arghdos Link
    Could you provide higher-resolution versions of the images in this post (particularly the first two)? They're pretty hard to make out here

    Could you provide higher-resolution versions of the images in this post (particularly the first two)? They're pretty hard to make out here

    5 votes
    1. [6]
      DivestTrump Link Parent
      Hopefully these work: Weekly Daily Defaults No Defaults

      Hopefully these work:

      Weekly

      Daily

      Defaults

      No Defaults

      6 votes
      1. [4]
        Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
        Yeah, one of my complaints about this article was the use of low-resolution images for graphs which have a lot of detail. I'm also puzzled why you chose to use radial graphs to display the...

        Yeah, one of my complaints about this article was the use of low-resolution images for graphs which have a lot of detail.

        I'm also puzzled why you chose to use radial graphs to display the activity data. It's impossible to detect trends when the data is going around a curve.

        8 votes
        1. [3]
          DivestTrump Link Parent
          To be fair, I'm still getting used to medium. I didn't realize it would compress the images so significantly (particularly on mobile). Also, I like the radial graph. Source code is provided so you...

          To be fair, I'm still getting used to medium. I didn't realize it would compress the images so significantly (particularly on mobile). Also, I like the radial graph. Source code is provided so you can analyze it yourself however you like :)

          3 votes
          1. arghdos Link Parent
            One thing that might be useful on the radial graph is a simple marker (e.g., a white line between the relevant weeks extending to the edge of the graph) of the before / after removal of...

            One thing that might be useful on the radial graph is a simple marker (e.g., a white line between the relevant weeks extending to the edge of the graph) of the before / after removal of "defaults", even if it was accomplished by a simple markup in paint. I'd also recommend making the labels ("Chinese", "Iran", etc.) much larger such that they are readable regardless of resolution or zoom level (this is generally good graphing advice for publication).

            One thing that might recommend a line-graph however is that you could have different axis scales, e.g., such that the "Chinese" data is actually visible, though it would be a trade-off with the (to me) more easily interpreted bar-graph nature of the radial graph, which allows you to easily visually determine the share of each state actor.

            Just a few quick thoughts from my years of obsessing over figures for journal publication :p

            7 votes
          2. Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
            I'm on desktop. And if I happen not to be a computer developer...? :)

            I didn't realize it would compress the images so significantly (particularly on mobile).

            I'm on desktop.

            Source code is provided so you can analyze it yourself however you like :)

            And if I happen not to be a computer developer...? :)

            5 votes
      2. arghdos Link Parent
        Much better -- I can actually pick out where the spike occurs in April 2017 now in the weekly chart , thanks :)

        Much better -- I can actually pick out where the spike occurs in April 2017 now in the weekly chart , thanks :)

        4 votes
  4. [3]
    Joe091 Link
    How did you differentiate between Russians and useful idiots posting these links? I didn’t see any talk about methodology, ands since I’m not a developer I can’t go dig through your source code.

    How did you differentiate between Russians and useful idiots posting these links? I didn’t see any talk about methodology, ands since I’m not a developer I can’t go dig through your source code.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      arghdos Link Parent
      They've talked a bit about the domains they search for & methodology in past posts
      5 votes
      1. DivestTrump Link Parent
        Thank you. The TL;DR is Russian sites are fully proven as Russian or Russian funded. Useful Idiots are sites that are really suspect and put out disinformation, but I can't prove they're funded by...

        Thank you. The TL;DR is Russian sites are fully proven as Russian or Russian funded. Useful Idiots are sites that are really suspect and put out disinformation, but I can't prove they're funded by any specific country.

        7 votes
  5. boot20 Link
    Honestly, reddit has become a shell of it form self. They don't have the strategic outlook they should. They are quickly heading the way of digg and will soon become irrelevant, like digg. I don't...

    Honestly, reddit has become a shell of it form self. They don't have the strategic outlook they should. They are quickly heading the way of digg and will soon become irrelevant, like digg. I don't know what the next platform is, but it is looking like tildes to me.

    Not to mention the massive brigading going on, yet reddit does nothing.

    2 votes
  6. [4]
    Silbern Link
    Woooow, Reddit's ending default subs? That's a big change, damn...

    Woooow, Reddit's ending default subs? That's a big change, damn...

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      Algernon_Asimov Link Parent
      Reddit ended default subreddits ages ago. As even this article says, that happened a year and a half ago. First, they introduced the /r/popular feed in February 2017. Then, they stopped signing...

      Reddit ended default subreddits ages ago. As even this article says, that happened a year and a half ago.

      First, they introduced the /r/popular feed in February 2017. Then, they stopped signing people up to default subreddits in May 2017.

      13 votes
      1. [2]
        Silbern Link Parent
        Wow, am I out of the loop. I made my account in late 2016 or very early 2017, so I just missed that, I still had to unsub from all of them. Can't believe I didn't hear about it then, I must've...

        Wow, am I out of the loop. I made my account in late 2016 or very early 2017, so I just missed that, I still had to unsub from all of them. Can't believe I didn't hear about it then, I must've been living under a rock or something.

        4 votes
        1. Amarok Link Parent
          I've noticed something a bit strange about their current ranking algorithm. It seems to pick one post from any given subreddit to spam at people in /r/popular each day, and ignore the rest....

          I've noticed something a bit strange about their current ranking algorithm. It seems to pick one post from any given subreddit to spam at people in /r/popular each day, and ignore the rest. Listentothis never ever got posts that regularly went over 1000 votes even at 13 million subscribers - that was a once a week event for us. Now, every single day, one of our submissions rockets up past 1000 like clockwork. I'm not sure exactly when that started, but it's probably sometime in the last year.

          The /r/science team had issues with this because they couldn't promote their AMAs properly. There was a big stink over it where they retired their AMA events and called spez out hard in public because nobody was showing up in the threads. The algorithm was picking something else each day and spamming that, but ignoring the AMAs. I'm kinda amazed even modern money-grubbing reddit didn't do anything about that considering how hard they try to sell mod teams on doing AMAs over there. There's no point until they fix the system.

          7 votes
  7. [18]
    meghan Link
    https://nektro.github.io/reader/?url=https://medium.com/@divesttrump/by-ending-default-communities-reddit-increased-disinformation-935dccbd93d3
    6 votes
    1. [3]
      Mitijea Link Parent
      Why would you just post another link to the same article? And nothing else?

      Why would you just post another link to the same article? And nothing else?

      5 votes
      1. [2]
        clerical_terrors Link Parent
        Is it a reader to get around Medium's ads/tracking?

        Is it a reader to get around Medium's ads/tracking?

        2 votes
    2. [14]
      calcifer Link Parent
      I apologize if this sounds harsh and I realize you are a frontend developer but wow, you've managed to make plain text unreadable without javascript. I know Medium sucks a thousand different ways...

      I apologize if this sounds harsh and I realize you are a frontend developer but wow, you've managed to make plain text unreadable without javascript. I know Medium sucks a thousand different ways but at least not being able to read text wasn't one of them.

      9 votes
      1. [7]
        Wes Link Parent
        It's a client-side webapp. It cannot work without Javascript. https://github.com/nektro/reader/blob/master/script.js

        It's a client-side webapp. It cannot work without Javascript.

        https://github.com/nektro/reader/blob/master/script.js

        5 votes
        1. [6]
          calcifer Link Parent
          Clearly, I'm aware of that, given my comment. I'm saying it's a bad thing.

          Clearly, I'm aware of that, given my comment. I'm saying it's a bad thing.

          1 vote
          1. [5]
            Wes Link Parent
            Sorry, but that's just how the web works. Javascript is a part of the standard. If you disable parts of your browser to make it non-standards compliant, then you shouldn't be surprised that...

            Sorry, but that's just how the web works. Javascript is a part of the standard. If you disable parts of your browser to make it non-standards compliant, then you shouldn't be surprised that websites stop functioning.

            You know perfectly well how to fix it. You don't get to tell developers the problem is on their end.

            1 vote
            1. [4]
              calcifer Link Parent
              Of course, and I didn't. In case you are having memory problems, let me quote my comment: Everything here is factual. It's a fact that Medium's text is 100% readable without javascript. It's...

              You don't get to tell developers the problem is on their end.

              Of course, and I didn't. In case you are having memory problems, let me quote my comment:

              I apologize if this sounds harsh and I realize you are a frontend developer but wow, you've managed to make plain text unreadable without javascript. I know Medium sucks a thousand different ways but at least not being able to read text wasn't one of them.

              Everything here is factual. It's a fact that Medium's text is 100% readable without javascript. It's another fact that the output of this reader is 100% unreadable without javascript. Finally, it's yet another fact that the previous fact is 100% due to the choices of the author.

              I neither said the dev had a problem, nor did I ask for changes. I simply stated facts.

              I'm happy to discuss the merits of JS, but you'd have to leave strawman arguments out first.

              1 vote
              1. [3]
                Wes Link Parent
                I'm not so sure. In your summary you happened to omit this comment: So you raised an issue to the developer, then explained it was because you believe it's a bad thing. Is that not so? Even if you...

                I neither said the dev had a problem, nor did I ask for changes. I simply stated facts.

                I'm not so sure. In your summary you happened to omit this comment:

                ... I'm saying it's a bad thing.

                So you raised an issue to the developer, then explained it was because you believe it's a bad thing. Is that not so?

                Even if you did not ask directly for changes, you still raised it as a complaint. To which I return to my previous statement: you know how to fix it. It is not the responsibility of the developer to accommodate you.

                1. [2]
                  calcifer Link Parent
                  That wasn't your statement though. Here's what you said: Of course I do, given what I consider to be a problem is 100% created by their decisions. The crucial difference is this: I've never said...

                  To which I return to my previous statement: you know how to fix it. It is not the responsibility of the developer to accommodate you.

                  That wasn't your statement though. Here's what you said:

                  You don't get to tell developers the problem is on their end.

                  Of course I do, given what I consider to be a problem is 100% created by their decisions. The crucial difference is this:

                  It is not the responsibility of the developer to accommodate you.

                  I've never said or implied anything like this, which makes it a strawman.

                  So let's sum it up: I wrote 100% factual things about something I consider to be a bad thing. I've made no demands. You've then chastised me for something I haven't said.

                  1 vote
                  1. Wes Link Parent
                    This is non-productive. You've heard my piece.

                    This is non-productive. You've heard my piece.

      2. meghan Link Parent
        no offense taken :) there's also https://outline.com/. the objective with this particular app was specifically to try and provide a similar experience but entirely run in browser and be open...

        no offense taken :) there's also https://outline.com/. the objective with this particular app was specifically to try and provide a similar experience but entirely run in browser and be open source
        edit: https://outline.com/ebJqdq

        4 votes
      3. [4]
        Luna Link Parent
        As others have said, it uses JS. This reason for this is a limitation of GitHub pages - you have no server-side processing. (If you see data being fetched from an API, the API keys are likely...

        As others have said, it uses JS. This reason for this is a limitation of GitHub pages - you have no server-side processing. (If you see data being fetched from an API, the API keys are likely somewhere in the JS.)

        3 votes
        1. [3]
          Emerald_Knight Link Parent
          Just a small note on that parenthetical, API keys aren't necessary for an internal API so long as you're authenticated and can pass a valid session ID along with your request. The keys are only...

          Just a small note on that parenthetical, API keys aren't necessary for an internal API so long as you're authenticated and can pass a valid session ID along with your request. The keys are only necessary for non-interactive use of the API, i.e. you don't want to be prompted for a login. That's also only for requests which require authorization, many public endpoints requiring no authorization whatsoever (e.g. public visibility of a page).

          External APIs, of course, are a different story. And if someone is using an external API with their keys exposed via JS, then I honestly have nothing good to say about that.

          /pedantry

          1. [2]
            Luna Link Parent
            I've seen people using the Twitch and Twitter APIs on GitHub pages. They put the secrets in plain text. They should have at least done some encoding so you would have to put even a modicum of...

            I've seen people using the Twitch and Twitter APIs on GitHub pages. They put the secrets in plain text. They should have at least done some encoding so you would have to put even a modicum of effort into extracting them.

            I think the best way to go about it is to setup a cron job to auto-update JSON on Github or S3 or even on your own server, and have the JS download the JSON file and adjust the page accordingly.

            1 vote
            1. Emerald_Knight Link Parent
              Pretty much any approach that doesn't store the credentials client-side would be better, no matter how hacky.

              Pretty much any approach that doesn't store the credentials client-side would be better, no matter how hacky.

      4. piedpiper Link Parent
        What's wrong with JavaScript?

        What's wrong with JavaScript?

        1 vote