How Reddit can be gamed for a couple hundred bucks (and why it shouldn't surprise you)

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,080   +131
Staff member

Something I’ve come to realize with age is that there’s almost always a purpose or agenda behind – well, nearly everything – and once you’re no longer oblivious to this fact, it becomes far more difficult to enjoy things or accept them at face value.

Take social news aggregators, for example.

With an Alexa global rank of 24 and a US rank of seven, Reddit is without a doubt one of the top destinations to discover and discuss news of all sorts. It seems innocent enough at first glance and while some content you’ll find there is truly organic, a lot of it is strategically shared as Forbes points out in a recent feature.

In a bid to discover just how easy it is to manipulate what you see on Reddit, Forbes’ Jay McGregor and Phil Harper were able to game Reddit by using two made-up stories that they posted to subreddits /r/Video and /r/UnitedKingdom. For under $200, the duo was able to get their stories to the number one and number two spots on their chosen subreddits by buying fake accounts and fake upvotes through a handful of different avenues.

The real story here isn’t how they pulled the caper off but rather, the fact that you really shouldn’t be surprised that people – advertisers, marketers, website owners, politicians, attention-seekers and so on – have an interest to do so and that virtually any system can be gamed if you put your mind (and / or wallet) to it.

Digg, if you remember, was once the go-to news aggregator for millions around the world. Like Reddit, users could submit stories for consideration by their peers. If a story got enough upvotes, it would be promoted to the front page which in turn would send a tremendous amount of traffic to the linked site. Often times, smaller sites were unable to handle the influx of traffic and would crash, a phenomenon known as the Digg effect (now the Reddit effect and formerly, the Slashdot effect).

The problem, however, is that this system was incredibly easy to game (at least, early on). All one needed to do was take part in – or better yet, hire – a Digg Army, a large group of people that would upvote your story (or downvote a story you dislike) in exchange for money (or if you were part of the Army, in exchange for your support of other members' submissions). Organized promotion is what it boiled down to and it made lots of people a lot of money.

Sites like Reddit no doubt learned from such mistakes and have built their algorithms to be much more complex and harder to get the upper-hand on. Volunteer moderators also help yet, with enough determination and a few bucks, its defenses can easily be overcome.

Video courtesy Forbes

Permalink to story.

 

tipstir

Posts: 2,854   +200
I know a lot of people using this. I never bother with this. I started to peek in and see what the fuss is about. But it's just like the old days with BBB posting topics. Instead of using Facebook you to Reddit and do it..
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,145
So at what point are we going to extend yellow journalism laws to the internet? It's pretty sad that any dude in his underwear can write "news" and pass if off as anything from a credible source.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,145
The "mainstream" media has been fabricating much of the news for decades. All that's changed is now almost anyone can do it.

The major difference being at least 4 years of school, an interview, an editor, and pants standing between regular journalists and the people on facebook and reddit. At least with mainstream media you know who the person and that they have training. Random people on the internet have none of the above.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 3,923   +2,992
The major difference being at least 4 years of school, an interview, an editor, and pants standing between regular journalists and the people on facebook and reddit. At least with mainstream media you know who the person and that they have training. Random people on the internet have none of the above.
Actually, I think this might be a positive... When "reputable" people give you the news, you tend to assume it's true - even when it turns out to be BS...

Now that more and more news comes to us from Reddit and other "sketchy" sources, people might start to assume that maybe it ISN'T true - and they might even start to do some research on their own. Hopefully, in a generation or 2, the majority of people will be savvy enough to determine BS on their own :)
 

treetops

Posts: 3,064   +784
Yahoo news comments are the worst. Especially now that they got rid of the thumbs down option. Which happened a month before the election if anyone cares..
 

Misagt

Posts: 315   +234
The "mainstream" media has been fabricating much of the news for decades. All that's changed is now almost anyone can do it.

The major difference being at least 4 years of school, an interview, an editor, and pants standing between regular journalists and the people on facebook and reddit. At least with mainstream media you know who the person and that they have training. Random people on the internet have none of the above.


So I am to understand you prefer a system where the government decides you can tell people what they can hear?

When you look a bit deeper you have to under that this "fake news" is total BS the MSM has been doing this since it's inception. The real problem is an under educated population that has been dumbed down by the political powers to make it easier to stay in power. Censorship isn't the solution, critical thinking is, putting more emphasis on this in education system is the best solution. As this will allow people to see past "fake news" on their own. Giving someone the authority to choose who can who can't be a journalist is just another abuse of the people waiting to happen. The fact that it's finally being wrangled from the hands of six corporations that own 90% of the MSM is a good thing not a bad one.
 

Evernessince

Posts: 5,464   +6,145
So I am to understand you prefer a system where the government decides you can tell people what they can hear?

When you look a bit deeper you have to under that this "fake news" is total BS the MSM has been doing this since it's inception. The real problem is an under educated population that has been dumbed down by the political powers to make it easier to stay in power. Censorship isn't the solution, critical thinking is, putting more emphasis on this in education system is the best solution. As this will allow people to see past "fake news" on their own. Giving someone the authority to choose who can who can't be a journalist is just another abuse of the people waiting to happen. The fact that it's finally being wrangled from the hands of six corporations that own 90% of the MSM is a good thing not a bad one.

Well first, it's not the government that decides who is and who isn't a journalist. If you can find a link from a credible source, I'd like to see it.

You comment essentially sums up to "let's make news into 4chan, where anything goes". Yes because being intelligent will certainly make it easier to wade through the flood of fake news articles to maybe eventually reach a real one. Yes,if everyone on the Internet is now allowed to write "news" and stand on equal ground with professionals good luck sifting through that tsunami of fake articles.

Actually, I think this might be a positive... When "reputable" people give you the news, you tend to assume it's true - even when it turns out to be BS...

Now that more and more news comes to us from Reddit and other "sketchy" sources, people might start to assume that maybe it ISN'T true - and they might even start to do some research on their own. Hopefully, in a generation or 2, the majority of people will be savvy enough to determine BS on their own :)

"Actually, I think this might be a positive... When "reputable" people give you the news, you tend to assume it's true - even when it turns out to be BS..."

You tend to assume it more reputable, yes but completely true? You should always check the the article. I would be inclined to believe your position if people didn't just pick up fake news like it's fact as well. This actually goes along with a recent study that proves that it requires more effort to object to something than to go along. If you didn't notice the whole Pizzagate thing, people will believe anything written on the internet. Funny part is the real world place doesn't even meet the conspiracy theory's description, as one shooter found out.
 
D

davislane1

The "mainstream" media has been fabricating much of the news for decades. All that's changed is now almost anyone can do it.

The major difference being at least 4 years of school, an interview, an editor, and pants standing between regular journalists and the people on facebook and reddit. At least with mainstream media you know who the person and that they have training. Random people on the internet have none of the above.


So I am to understand you prefer a system where the government decides you can tell people what they can hear?

The simple answer to this is, "yes." He is advocating for speech licensing. People are too gullible for speech to be freely distributed so we must institute as system where in only licensed (degreed) speakers can promote something as valid information.

It's like how you can't comment on "climate change" unless your an MIT grad with a degree in Climatology. You just ain't credentialed enough to be trusted.

I am curious what school he went to, however. His profile doesn't say he has a degree in Constitutional Law, Human Rights, or any other relevant discipline.
 

Rippleman

Posts: 871   +394
The major difference being at least 4 years of school, an interview, an editor, and pants standing between regular journalists and the people on facebook and reddit. At least with mainstream media you know who the person and that they have training. Random people on the internet have none of the above.
Actually, I think this might be a positive... When "reputable" people give you the news, you tend to assume it's true - even when it turns out to be BS...

Now that more and more news comes to us from Reddit and other "sketchy" sources, people might start to assume that maybe it ISN'T true - and they might even start to do some research on their own. Hopefully, in a generation or 2, the majority of people will be savvy enough to determine BS on their own :)

One could hope, but it didn't work this way with 90% of people in the world believing in 1 form or another of mythology. Generally, people are stupid - even if they are smart. :)