Reddit users unknowingly shared Russian propaganda during US election
While Facebook and Twitter have continued to delve into how Russian groups used their platforms to influence the last US presidential election, we haven’t heard much from Reddit about the issue. However, in a post today, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman shared some findings from the company’s investigation, describing what it has uncovered so far and how it has responded.
First, Huffman says that the company has been pretty quiet about the topic because its investigation is ongoing but that there are some findings he would like to share regarding ads, direct propaganda from Russians and indirect propaganda spread by Reddit users. When it comes to ads, Huffman says that the company hasn’t found many originating from Russia before or after the election and that currently, all ads from Russia are blocked altogether. As for direct propaganda, Reddit’s investigation has uncovered and removed a few hundred accounts. “The vast majority of suspicious accounts we have found in the past months were banned back in 2015–2016 through our enhanced efforts to prevent abuse of the site generally,” Huffman added.
However, indirect propaganda appears to have had the biggest impact across Reddit and stands to be the most difficult issue to address. Huffman uses the Twitter account @TEN_GOP as an example, which is now understood to be run by Russian individuals. “@TEN_GOP’s Tweets were amplified by thousands of Reddit users, and sadly, from everything we can tell, these users are mostly American, and appear to be unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda,” he wrote. “I believe the biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense, and this is a burden we all bear.”
That’s just one example and Huffman doesn’t provide any others. Therefore it’s hard to determine just how big of an impact Reddit had in the spread of content pushed by Russian agents and there’s no telling when or if we’ll get more information. But Huffman says the company is still investigating the issue and is working with Congress. “While I know it’s frustrating that we don’t share everything we know publicly,” he says, “I want to reiterate that we take these matters very seriously, and we are cooperating with congressional inquiries.”