https://gracecommunitychurch.info/cuckold/brutally-whipped-women.php abyss of cute animal pics, gifs, and videos on Reddit. The company says it was already in the midst of a deeper investigation into Russian misinformation." />
No posts about cats just adopted off the street; no bird-with-an-injured-beak stories. Cheerful descriptions of animals, however, are very much on point.
He has a beard. And he is human sized. We get fun looks in traffic. My job is to make and enforce rules for all of them. The volunteers put out a call for people to join their ranks, and I applied, writing that I wanted to bulk up on meaningful hobbies before I joined the world of full-time work. A week later, I was taken in. There are fewer than paid employees at Reddit, but tens of thousands of us volunteer moderators , for 14 billion pageviews a month. My peers and I see every post and comment that comes in, one by one.
Our rules. Sometimes they post gore porn, or threats to find me and hurt me. My rules are both obvious kittens are great; no gore porn, no threats and designed to prevent misuse of the platform no social media links or handles, and no spamming. Every one of the 19 million people there is pseudonymous, and many abuse their relative anonymity. But there are also of course the good users, our singing birds. Then, as the inspector was ending her visit, she walked into a doorless building attached to the bakery.
There stood an escaped cow licking all of the bread loaves. Sometimes that means fighting zombies. Across Reddit, unused accounts pile up, the ghostly remains of a million people who have just tried out the site for a day and then given it up.
What you have to look out for is when these older accounts, long since dead and forgotten, suddenly come to life—because they can be dangerous. At first glance, the author seemed like a normal redditor.
The account had been created 11 months earlier, a modestly respectable duration. Every account has a badge that shows its age, and older accounts are rarer and better established. And now, having seemingly come back to life, it had shown up in my queue.
And I could see that the hugging-dogs image was kind of blurry. Image quality goes down when photographs are compressed and recompressed by websites as they circulate online. The image had been stolen.
Gibberish, perhaps the result of a malfunctioning bot or someone just typing anything to see whether their comments were automatically filtered by our moderation bots. I was now confident I was dealing with a scammer. From dawn to dusk, scammers—be they bots, trolls, or propagandists —scour the internet searching for pictures or memes that have gone viral in the past: comfort foods, videos of things falling over, puppies. Often puppies. By sharing puppies, they hope that you will appreciate them, upvote them, and share them, and in so doing lend the zombie account the further appearance of credibility.
And that could have made it easier for MagnoliaQuezada to share less obviously lovable things, like links to websites where its owners could say or do whatever they wanted. The corpse might have thrived as a spammer. Kill it. The undead hordes of unused accounts grow larger by the day as Reddit pushes upward toward million active monthly users.
Sure, these dormant accounts might be reanimated by their owners—or they might be bought on the gray market on sites like playerup. You can find YouTube videos telling you how to get started. But our queues fill up fast, and sometimes we need to sleep. So zombies probably sneak through as often as we catch them. We all do this, pouring in our time, and still things slip by us. Elliot is in his mid-thirties, an engineer. It was clever stuff. The first one would leave a complaint about some problem or other, or simply post a link, then the other two would wade in.
Laptop balanced on the arm of the living room couch, he went to work on a script that would look for groups of users who followed each other around the site and interacted frequently. To find them, his basic script scraped through all the public posts on any page, made a list of people who often replied to one another, and spit the list out into a spreadsheet. Too many hits. The accounts were indeed replying to each other in multiple threads, but they might just be friends—false positives.
So Elliot started scanning through his results manually, looking for things that more clearly set off his moderator alarm bells. For hours, he worked through the list at home and at his office. Finally he had a short list: 46 accounts, all of them behaving in ways the Guardian article described. Arielle Pardes. Virginia Heffernan. Brian Barrett. Elliot was a big deal on Reddit. I brag about my subscriber numbers, but his dwarfed mine. Across his subreddits lived nearly million users, and that kind of power comes with perks—important people listen.
Soon, Elliot was in an email chain with several of them, and he sent links to dozens of suspicious accounts. The excitement Elliot felt at this moment, the nervous anticipation, is something I envy. We sort through queues of posts, hundreds at a time, getting trolled and insulted and shat on by the internet—for one moment like this one. He kept looking.
This time, Elliot used his code to track users who shared suspicious domain names on the site, rather than user interaction patterns. Quickly, he found one such domain: geotus.
Elliot checked the user histories of the people sharing the suspicious links. Beyond spreading the links, they were largely inactive. Elliot was powerful, but he was limited to acting on the subreddits he controlled. And this time he felt sure he had found something—something that needed to be made known.
He hit publish right before leaving for the gym, on the morning of September 20, Twenty minutes later, when Elliot arrived for his workout, he set down his things and checked his phone. There were messages waiting for him. Over the next few days, Newsweek wrote about his findings.
NBC interviewed him. And I am still, at minimum, crazy jealous and crazy proud. Because a volunteer did this. Elliot himself cites the influence of several other moderators who uncovered Iranian propaganda on the site , as well as the guidance of spam-hunting expert mods who got him interested in this specific kind of tracking to begin with.
There are plenty of people who think redditors, gamers, internet denizens are people who live in basements. Socially isolated heaps. I am a university lecturer. We argue about which foods are the best. He is always wrong. I am always wrong. We argue over who is more wrong. He ranks sour cream above fruit and says alligator is the best meat.
We go at this for hours. Others join in: They are programmers and engineers for design firms, graduate students studying business, government employees in the UK, parents home from work at night, college kids in their dorms taking a break from Spanish homework, railroad workers laid up with broken legs, waiters and writers and clerks and cooks. Two of my Reddit friends fell in love. It often feels as if we can read a digital room better than most people can read a physical one.
How do you think we convince redditors to let us run giant forums? Some of the top mods review more than 10, things a month, and apologize when they have to take time off to do their IRL jobs.
To establish our rules, moderators have staged pure democratic votes, building websites to host them and bots to count the tallies. We build tools for each other that track rule breakers across the site, leaving notes for one another to rely on. We learn from each other together; we master it together. At Reddit, all of the volunteers, certainly in the thousands, are trusted with freedom to do as we like with our sections of the site.
We appreciate this. I appreciate this. Among the messages Elliot received when he shared his post about the Russian domains were notes from supporters, swarming his Reddit inbox and private chats , thanking him. But also messages from trolls, death threats. For 12 hours after Elliot went public, the threats kept coming. What felt worse: The Reddit staff chastised him too.