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  • Writer's picturePeter DiSilvio

The Fall of r/Russia

The subreddit r/Russia, which recently boasted over more than 265,000 users, was quarantined by Reddit today for spreading false information regarding the growing conflict in Ukraine.

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a social media news aggregator where usually-anonymous users submit links, text posts, pictures, images, or videos which are they voted up or voted down by other users. The site is partitioned into various message boards called subreddits that usually revolve around a single topic, idea, or item. Subreddits vary in size wildly with some having only hundreds of users while others boast millions. Items that receive the most upvotes will appear on the home page of their particular subreddit and, if the item does really well, it will appear on the home page of Reddit itself. As of June 2021, Reddit ranked among the most popular mobile social apps in the United States with almost 48 million monthly active users [1].

The sites popularity has made it an important part of the media landscape. As detailed in Ryan Holiday's book, Trust Me I'm Lying, media manipulators often use Reddit to get favorable stories for their clients into the public consciousness. Savvy press secretaries and marketing agents will share a story or item on a smaller subreddit in the hopes of getting the story some traction. Once that is accomplished other subreddits may have the item shared there as well which builds on the base of support from the first post. With luck, an item will make the front page of a major subreddit or Reddit itself. Reporters and late night comedians often scan Reddit for items to look into so by reaching the front page you greatly encourage your chances of wider media exposure.

What does it mean to be quarantined?

Quarantined subreddits don't show up in searches, recommendations, or feeds in which a user hasn't specifically included them (such as r/Popular or r/All). Further, anyone who finds their way to a quarantined community is shown a warning regarding the content, which they must acknowledge in order to access it [2].

Reddit itself explains the quarantine process thusly; ""On a platform as open and diverse as Reddit, there will sometimes be communities that, while not prohibited, average redditors may nevertheless find highly offensive or upsetting. In other cases, communities may be dedicated to promoting hoaxes (yes we used that word) that warrant additional scrutiny, as there are some things that are either verifiable or falsifiable and not seriously up for debate. In these circumstances, Reddit Administrators may apply a quarantine." [3]

Why r/Russia has been Quaratined and Possible Fall Out

If you try to visit r/Russia you will be greeted by a message that warns you that it contains "a high volume of information not supported by credible sources." They now join r/AltRightsChristian, r/casualchildabuse, r/911truth, and dozens of other subreddits that have been walled off from the rest of Reddit for one reason or another.

It is hard to predict either parties, Russia itself or Reddit's, next move in this situation. Reddit could ban the subreddit outright denying users access at all and preventing anyone else from picking up the name again. Russia has demonstrated lately a willingness to tackle Western social media companies that refuse to carry their messaging. As the Ukrainian conflicts grows so too does the risk inherent in this situation. Might Putin ban Reddit all together to maintain control over the narrative in Russia? Only time will tell.


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