Thursday, June 15, 2023

Reddit is dangerous. The admins are out of control. Humanity needs a viable alternative.

I've been on Reddit for over a decade now. Reddit has everything needed to be a high-quality site -- to create and share high-quality information, and participate in important endeavors. Yet my experience there over the past decade has largely been the opposite of that. I founded some communities that I contributed high-quality content to for years, and spearheaded a few community efforts. I largely experienced a lack of support & reciprocation, a lack of participation in community efforts; hostility; anti-scientific, willfully ignorant attitudes, and worse [1][2]. I've been so incredibly disappointed by Reddit and my experiences there. Sites that seem prone to low-quality content, and which aren't designed for high-quality discussion & information sharing, ended up being vastly more supportive and useful than Reddit.

Sharing information on Reddit seems nearly useless. The majority of the time it seems to go in one ear and out the other, and people continue to spread the same incorrect or low-quality information no matter how many times it's debunked or higher-quality information is shared. And that higher-quality information is ignored rather than spread.

It's a waste of time to put effort into making high-quality content on Reddit subs you don't mod yourself, since so much content gets secretly (or otherwise) removed, and if a mod simply disagrees with something you said (anywhere on Reddit, not even just on their sub) they can and do remove years of your content and permanently ban you. So I gave up on most of Reddit years ago.

Reddit has been becoming more and more like Facebook. Both in regards to the UI being degraded to stuff as many ads as possible in your face, and the low-quality content.

I think Reddit is dysfunctional because people are dysfunctional. My hope is to be able to address that by improving people's health & function via the gut microbiome.

Misinformation & Manipulation:

Reddit has become a cesspool of heavily manipulated and biased content, groupthink, mob behavior, tribalism, propaganda, astroturfing, misinformation, etc.. One of the main causes is corrupt and abusive moderators who manipulate content and discussions according to their personal biases/agendas. People have consistently shifted the blame from Reddit to the random mods who "got there first", but the Reddit admins proved to me that the admins are 100% behind the actions these mods take, and the admins purposely put the most corrupt and abusive mods in places of power [1].

To me, Reddit is dead. There is nothing of value left on that website. Even the small handful of subs that maintained quality and resisted corruption for the longest time have almost all succumbed to the mantra "absolute power corrupts absolutely". Virtually everything on Reddit is now heavily manipulated and biased. A place that once revered books like 1984 and Manufacturing Consent has now been turned into the epitome of them. Most of the content is now extremely poor quality as well. The idea and general function of Reddit is fantastic, and fills an extremely useful and important niche. But the way the admins allow it to be run, and the direction they've purposely moved it in for the pursuit of profit, completely destroys all the value it has.

The manipulation of Reddit was glaringly-problematic during COVID
. Beyond that write-up, I unsubscribed from several political and non-political subs I'd been subscribed to for years because mods were taking the opportunity to push their own agenda/preferences regarding off-topic things like COVID onto the users. A huge portion of non-COVID subs were inundated with COVID stuff - often by the mods themselves.

"Misinformation" was whatever the mod of each sub decided it was. And of course, Reddit subs are not run by well-informed, neutral, objective, evidence-based epidemiologists.

Reddit is now nothing more than a propaganda front, where individuals and special interest groups manipulate content & discussions in order to further their personal agenda. That, plus the number of users confidently spreading misinformation on Reddit, results in me not trusting anything I read there anymore.

It seems that the majority of "information" on Reddit is random uninformed people confidently spreading misinformation as if it were fact. While also showing complete resistance to becoming informed and spreading high-quality information after receiving it.

Many years ago I created my own subreddit to try to stop this spread of misinformation on a topic I was well-informed on. But despite having a long history, clear rules, etc. the minute I'm away from modding the misinformation starts up again.

The spread of misinformation is also aided by bad moderation and corrupt mods on most subs, who implement terrible policies and manipulate content toward their personal preferences [1][2].

Corrupt Reddit admins out of control:

Shortly before Reddit killed 3rd party apps and clearly stated that they are focused on increasing profit (seemingly at all costs), I was permanently banned (12-year-old account with tons of high-quality content, and run many subs). I didn't think it was a big deal because it was obviously a mistake that I just needed to appeal. However, my appeal was ignored. It wasn't until another mod made a public post about it that they were able to get a response. In that response the admins indicated that it doesn't matter if a rule was broken or not; they'll ban you for whatever they want whenever they want, and they don't like the person so they banned them. They then 100% confirmed this by banning another account I made for an even more blatantly-erroneous reason.

Additionally, the Reddit admins seem to be using their power & platform to harm me, my community, and our organization, by allowing a highly disreputable group, and other general trolls, to blatantly violate Reddit's rules against us, doing all the things Reddit claims to have banned me for.

Apparently, as a long-time public critic of Reddit, I've been a thorn in their side for many years and now they've adopted the notion that they can and will do whatever they want. A UK mod was able to get them to cease and desist by threatening legal action (under UK Consumer Rights Act), but those of us in other countries may not have similar laws to protect us. I'm trying to find a US lawyer with knowledge on this topic because what the Reddit admins are doing to me seems like it should be illegal. But I've been struggling to find a lawyer well-versed on this issue. I don't want to publicly share the details, but I'm willing to share them with journalists.

They've banned or restricted all subreddits that used to cover this kind of abuse. So it's effectively completely hushed at this point. Giving them free rein to do as they please without anyone finding out. But I did catch an instance of them banning someone for promoting a Lemmy migration, and only unbanned them after it got bad publicity. And another user was permanently banned shortly after making a popular post promoting the /r/RedditAlternatives sub. And Reddit continued banning "migration" subs: Eg /r/KbinMigration [1][2].

So that's it for me. Over a decade of work gone down the drain because a Reddit admin decided I was a thorn in their side that they can simply pluck and discard.

Once a company demonstrates that they're only willing to behave with integrity if an issue gets bad media publicity, that company is no longer trustworthy and should be avoided. You can't expect every person who is wronged by them to be able to get media attention.

A few other recent instances of people agreeing that Reddit is not acting in good faith:

It's not wise to leave yourself at the mercy of such untrustworthy people, who lack integrity.

Reddit is now "king of search engine results", and "query reddit" has become a standard search for many people. The amount of power the Reddit admins (and many mods) are wielding is too much. And Reddit seems to be at the stage of "do anything to protect our bottom line". Accounts and subs are all at risk of being banned by increasingly-capricious Reddit admins. They've been banning communities without warning for a wide variety of reasons. And frequently introducing new controversial “features” that degrade the user experience. Reddit is no longer a safe and reliable place to build communities or post valuable information.

Most people are probably aware of the recent 3rd party app and API issues resulting in many subs protesting. When you see protests on Reddit, there's often more to them than what is observable, due to the admins silencing, banning, and putting fear into people to stay quiet. Many people have a long history of bad experiences, and now the built up frustration is being let loose.

Redditors love to shit on Facebook. I dislike Facebook myself and have avoided it as much as possible for 10+ years. But from what I've seen and experienced from Reddit in recent years, Reddit is far more corrupt, and arguably a bigger threat. They make me want to return to Facebook as the lesser evil.

The value of Reddit and the need for an alternative:

I think that public, general-use forums like Reddit are very important for society. Anyone can start up and grow a public community easily and for free. I was a nobody with no money when I started up one many years ago on Reddit which resulted in the founding of a very important, and now very large effort to address the chronic disease crisis. I would have never been able to do this on Discord, or some small, private forum, because both lack the exposure needed for community growth, and the ability to reach influential people. A large & diverse user base with recruitment & public attention from all kinds of other communities & individuals across Reddit was vital. As was the fact that old.reddit is easy to use and free to set up your own communities.

It would also be extremely time-consuming to try to participate across numerous other smaller websites. So while centralization clearly has its dangers, it's also extremely useful, and arguably necessary.

Discord, Facebook, etc. are not valid options due to their private nature and inability to be indexed by search engines. And I've tried to avoid them for this reason.

In this blog where the author argued not to contribute anything valuable to Reddit, there were linked discussions that argued the benefits of Reddit. No doubt there have been numerous benefits, which is why Reddit has grown so large. But the downsides now outweigh the benefits.

I've been following for many years. Unfortunately, developers have mostly decided to work on their own [dozens of] pet projects rather than join together to implement one valid alternative that people can flock to.

My list of requirements
: [1][2]

Saidit: Has all the features of Reddit, and is the only website that is an overall improvement of Reddit without losing any features. But what's stopping them from going down the same path as Reddit?

: I'm not a fan of the UI/whitespace, but the invite-only nature of it keeps it high-quality. It's another nice & unique option, but has the same "single owner" issue, as Saidit, Reddit, etc., so it would be risky to dedicate time and effort to building a community there. In the blink of an eye your years of work could be terminated by one person. I've also read multiple concerns/complaints about heavy-handed moderation, similar to what occurs on Reddit.

Tildes update:
I made a Tildes account many years ago when it first started up. I knew the founder was a Reddit admin, and I'd heard that it was a haven for Reddit admins & power-mods, but I hadn't spent much time there.

I recently made a post about the problems with Reddit, and while there were intelligent people and comments on there, the majority of votes went to people who were being extremely dishonest, and even outright lying; attacking me in every way possible while urging the admin to ban me. Neutral people don't behave like that. So they couldn't have made it more obvious that Tildes is merely an extension of authority-figures-of-Reddit with a different UI. All the same problematic people & behaviors exist there.

Based on the accusations one of them was making, and my history they were pulling up, one of them was either a Reddit admin or someone in cahoots with one of the Reddit admins that banned me.

The Tildes admin removed my comments debunking the lies they were telling, and deleted my account

My experience with Reddit has made me extremely hesitant to put in any amount of effort or commitment into any platform I don't own/control myself, and this recent experience with Tildes greatly confirms that concern.

Federated alternatives like Lemmy
: I grew up on the internet and am far more tech/internet savvy than the average person, and I find federated options confusing and complicated. I also read that they're very complex and not scalable on the technical end as well. They don't seem like a viable option that can gain major traction. I'll keep watching though, maybe I'll be wrong.

I really dislike the bloated UI they're all using, but it looks like there are solutions on the way.

Someone mentioned a publicly-funded option like Wikipedia. To me that seems like one of the better solutions, despite Wikipedia having its own problems with bias & quality. Maybe this is/could be what a single Lemmy instance is?

Lemmy update:
I tried Lemmy and my experience there was one of the worst. Definitely not “organic comments & votes from intelligent people who fled Reddit because it was trash”. Lemmy's been under attack from bots, child porn spam, DDoS attacks, and more. This is something that most Reddit alternatives get targeted with, which is really sketchy. Clearly someone doesn't want them to thrive. It's possible that these same bad actors are purposely trying to make content on Lemmy worse to scare people away (back to Reddit). If that's the case then the internet as we knew it is likely permanently dead because I don't see how anyone can counter/prevent that without some advanced, future AI. But it seems similarly likely that social media is simply lost to unintelligent people sucking up mindless fluff content and regurgitating garbage. My search for intelligent life continues.

I think a viable alternative will likely require AI moderation, both for neutrality and for the "unpaid labor" issue. But it'll likely take some time before an AI is good enough for that. A fact-checking AI would likely be very valuable as well.

The community & project I created is lucky enough to be able to move to a small forum without much issue at this point, so that's likely the direction I'll go.

I'll also be returning to doing web searches of "inquiry forum" rather than "inquiry reddit". Unfortunately, neither Bing nor Google turn up any results for this forum when searching "best forum software", despite it likely being the best site on the web for that query.

Is there a solution? 

It seems like search engines hold a lot of responsibility for this and need to make major improvements. Google and Bing both have filters for "images", "videos", "news", etc.. Perhaps more should be added for other types of websites, such as "forums" or maybe a "communities" option that includes forums and Reddit alternatives. Is there a way to pass this feedback on to Google & Bing?




  1. I was permanently banned because my account was made with the same email address as my husband. His account was banned due to a comment he made. When I appealed this ban, I thought it would be easy to get my account restored! It was clearly a mistake, after all, I didn’t make any comments that were problematic nor was I the person banned! So I appealed and wrote this big long message, and it was denied without any explanation of what *I* did wrong to have my account permanently suspended. I did not know what to do! So I figured, hey, maybe I just loose this account, because it’s associated with my husband, I’ll just take it as a loss and create a new account… which I did. I also told them I was doing this because I was looking for guidance! Well they blocked that account too! I was floored. I had no clue what I did wrong! I did not understand how I could get banned just for being associated with my husband- they don’t like him and it felt very personal. It felt like they were mocking me. I can’t believe they can get away with making a customer feel so uncomfortable! I’ve just moved on and stopped trying. It’s annoying because sometimes I want to ask questions about my house plants or parenting stuff… so to this day I have no idea why I was banned. It just happened and they refused to explain.

  2. Great news! Google is listening!

    * Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s head of search, admitted users are unhappy when employees asked about the Reddit blackouts and their impact on results.
    * Raghavan said the company is testing a number of ways to improve search results for more authentic answers.
    * On Monday, Google introduced a new feature called Perspectives, which will surface discussion forums and videos from social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Reddit and Quora.