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Reddit page.png
"Reddit" Site
Type Social Bookmarking
Open Source Project
Launch Date 2005
Status Active
Product Line News Website
Social Bookmarking
Platform Cloud Service
Android Tablet
Android App
iOS App

is an internet forum where users, known as "Redditors", can post images, videos, questions, opinions, user-generated content, and links relevant to the interests of the community. [1] Each individual community within Reddit is known as a subreddit. For example, there is a subreddit called "Today I Learned", which is about interesting facts Redditors recently learned. There are thousands of subreddits, all covering different topics and attracting different users. The name Reddit is a play on the words "read it", i.e., "I read it on Reddit".[2]

The sense of community plays a large role in allowing the actions of Redditors to act charitably and use Reddit as a place to cultivate and gain social capital. However, ethical issues within Reddit arises from the existence of "circle jerks," where homogeneous, hyper-polarized opinions are socially acceptable and reinforced. Moreover, the ease of user account creation allows a single user to obtain multiple identities in a single online community, leading to questions of authenticity, embodiment, and identity. [3] Additionally, biased moderation may present a barrier to freedom of speech.


Launched in 2005, the company was started by two University of Virginia grads, Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman in the Y Combinator program. The two wanted to create a site where users could access the most shared links on the Internet, essentially a "front page" of the Internet. With an investment from Y Combinator, Huffman and Ohanian started working on Reddit in Medford, Massachusetts. [4] Two others, Christopher Slowe and Aaron Swartz, later joined the team. Conde Nast, owner of Wired Magazine and other popular magazines/websites, acquired Reddit in October of 2006. In September 2011, the company changed hands from Conde Nast to its parent company, Advanced Publications. As part of the new structure, Reddit incorporated and now reports directly to a board, including Alexis Ohanian, Bob Sauerberg (President), Joe Simon (Chief Technology Officer) from Conde Nast, and Andrew Siegel (Senior Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development) from Advance.[5] Also, in May of 2016 Reddit ahiggz, a Reddit product manager, posted about how they would be shutting down Alien Blue, a mobile client for Reddit. However, they would be releasing a mobile version of Reddit, and they told users to comment their favorite features from Alien Blue[6].

A screenshot of Reddit's home page



The content of Reddit 's front page is decided based on how users vote. An upvote makes the submission or comment rise closer to the top of the page (and ultimately the front page, the most popular page on the site). Downvotes act in the opposite way, moving the article away from the top of the page. The front page of Reddit contains the submissions that were most upvoted by Reddit users.


Reddit is comprised of thousands of subreddits, with each narrowly focused on a specific, shared interest. Users can choose to follow and track particular subreddits if they wish. Once followed, the subreddit has a higher chance of appearing on a user's front page, customizing it. For example, if one follows a random boating page, which is relatively unpopular, the highest voted content will appear on a front page, even if some other content has more total upvotes. Some popular sub-Reddits include ‘world news’, ‘pictures’, and ‘funny’, which are displayed on the front page for all new users. Anyone can create a sub-Reddit, which enhances the diversity and creates a stronger sense of community on the site.


One of Reddit's most popular subreddits, IAmA, allows ordinary people or public figures to answer questions about their life and work. Often, celebrities, such as actors or politicians, will host "AMA's" (Ask Me Anything) where they will answer questions on the platform. Due to the popularity of the site, high-profile figures often conduct AMAs, most notably former United States President, Barack Obama.[7]

Reddit values authenticity, down-to-earth behavior, and humor in AMA respondents, and will quickly turn on anyone seen to be using an AMA to "shill" or profit for their own benefit. Most notable are the cases of Woody Harrelson and Morgan Freeman. Both were perceived as inauthentic and manufactured, and have been turned into jokes around the site.

Karma System

Upvote and Downvote arrows are used to rank posts to the site[8].

The Karma system acts as a cumulative recommender system in which users receive points, or Karma, for their input to the site. One positive point of Karma is given for each upvote received, and one negative point is given for each downvote. A user’s Karma score is displayed on their profile page, separated into two categories, comments, and submissions. A user's Karma score shows how much good they have done for the Reddit community. The higher the karma, the more they are respected and less likely to be considered a spammer. [9]

The best way to accumulate karma is by submitting links that other users like and vote for. While Karma can serve the purpose of providing an unofficial qualification check of user contributions, the owners of the site don't want Karma accumulation to be the main focus. Instead, they advise users to "just set out to be a good person, and let your karma simply be a reminder of your legacy." [10]

Reddit as a Community

Reddit has developed a sense of community that holds members responsible for their actions, going as far as organizing meetings in real life for Reddit members to meet and socialize[11]. Ethical behavior comes along with this sense of community, as people feel a social responsibility to act according to the ethical norms created for the environment. A moral framework called "Reddiquette" is one way that allows users to adapt to the new moral objects present on Reddit. Reddiquette is “an informal expression of Reddit's community values” that helps shape what ethical behavior is on the site. [12] Reddiquette is an extensive set of morals, organized in a set of what to do, which is comprised of twenty items, and a set of what not to do made up of thirty-seven entries. Some subjects covered in the section of what not to do include revealing personal information, compromising others' personal privacy, complaining about reposts, pleading for votes, and posting comments that lack content. In the “Please do” section, some topics covered are linking directly to the page of the original source of content and moderating on the basis of quality, not opinion.

Ethics on Reddit

Over the course of the maturation process of Reddit as a community, much of the intellectualism that originally existed in what was the grassroots community has deteriorated. Reddit lost much of its credibility and many of its more objective users. Today, the Reddit community is largely homogeneous, which presents specific ethical concerns. On the other hand, Reddit has created an environment in which many users act ethically, fostered social pressures encouraging that works to make Reddit a better place. Certain sub-communities work together to suppress hateful speech, act charitably, and help fellow Redditors out with either advice or favors. [13] Due to the fact that Reddit is one of the most popular social news sites, many users will copy content that was original from Reddit and post it on other social news applications. Often you will see that content on Reddit is passed around but it is never the same person who is distributing the content. Because of this the original poster of the content does not always necessarily get the credit or recognition.

The Daily Me & Group think

Many of the regular users on popular subreddits are individuals that share a liking of the same type of content and content discussion. When groups of homogeneous individuals curate the types of news and content that they all like, the likelihood and risk of the hyperpolarization of radical ideals increases. Cass Sunstein (2001) calls for more randomly curated news and content distribution platforms, where users are confronted with content they wouldn't have otherwise sought for. [14]

"Karma Whoring"

Posts that a user submits can receive positive karma for thoughtful or entertaining contributions to the community, or negative karma for disruptive behavior. It is common for many users to "re-post" popular images, viral videos, and news stories with the hope of generating more upvotes from users to whom the reported content is new. This practice is referred to as "karma whoring"

"Circle Jerking"

A "Circle Jerk" refers to the dynamic within an infosphere where the commentary of likeminded users leads to a chain of responses and upvotes to one another's posts regardless of the quality of the comment. "Circlejerking" leads to a decline in original and thoughtful content.

Authenticity in the Reddit Community

Creating a Reddit account is a simple process in which no personally identifiable information is required. There is no limit on the number of accounts that a single user can make. Many users manage multiple accounts where they portray various online identities. Using Reddit on numerous accounts allows regular Reddit community members to post with increased anonymity, which enables them to keep embarrassing or overly personal information from being associated with their main Reddit account. However, this ability to create multiple accounts raises questions about authenticity. Users counter this through the maintenance of groups norms like trust, respect, rules, and consequences to the violation of those rules. [15] [16]


"Throwaway" accounts are those created by Redditors to post content they do not want their friends, family, or coworkers to know about. They are generally temporary accounts with only a few posts on them, allowing users to gain a fresh start on the platform and to not have a post history that other users can track. This concept amplifies the anonymous aspect of the site and creates a platform for individuals to post embarrassing, revealing, or even threatening content on the site. A regular user's account generally contains identifiers and other information that others can utilize to figure out their identity. When individuals feel as if they cannot be found out, it creates an issue of those individuals utilizing the anonymity to take advantage of other users.

Value-Sensitive Design

Value-sensitive design refers to an approach to designing a website or app platform interface that accounts for human values in a comprehensive manner [17]. Implementing the karma system into the architectural code of Reddit is an example of developers practicing value-sensitive design. The cumulative points that users are given based on upvotes or downvotes determine which users are more respected and which users are considered more likely to be spammers on the site. According to the developers of the site, Reddit is democratic in its design. However, some argue that the platform's karma design enables glorification of certain posts that are not necessarily the "best" but simply reflect the post that the highest number of users upvoted. This can present an ethical conundrum because the only control over which mosts are promoted and viewed the most is held by the opinions of the users themselves. This can leave certain posts suppressed and unnoticed while other posts are highlighted and gain much recognition, without much consideration to the content of the post itself. For this reason, Reddit is an example of how the design of the architectural code of a website can have a drastic effect on the culture and behavior of the users on the site. According to Massanari, this design that embeds the value of karma into its design can present a toxic culture which enables misogyny and anti-feminist behavior when dealing with certain groups on the Reddit platform[18].

Ethical/Unethical Subreddits

Toxic Communities

Adrienne Massanari argues that the algorithmic politics and platform of Reddit allow and encourage discrimination against individuals and certain groups of people, creating what she calls a "toxic technoculture". Her team completed a three-year ethnographic observational study of the Reddit community to examine the sites experience with the actor-network theory (ANT), "how non-human technological agents can shape and are shaped by human activity." Anonymity, amongst other factors, contribute to hateful speech and the formation of discriminatory subreddits.[19]


/r/fakeid connects vendors of fake IDs to interested buyers. This is not only ethically convoluted but illegal. /r/fakeid has rules to protect all participants' identity. Personal information is prohibited, information about specific orders is kept confidential, and buyers enjoy affordances such as access to a choice of a fake id from various states. Some vendors go so far as to communicate with buyers through encrypted emails and accept payment only in bitcoin. While this community has existed for 6 years, as of April 2016, it has not been removed, despite having over 10,000 subreddit subscribers.[20]


/r/shitredditsays is a subreddit where users aggregate hateful and distasteful comments posted on Reddit. An attempt to include users in the policing of the site, users post the types of comments portraying instances of misogyny, sexism, racism or other slurs targeting specific groups of people or sensitive topics [21].


/r/jailbait displays photos of non-nude underage girls in sexually suggestive clothing or positions. Most of these photos were taken from friends of the girls on their Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. Anderson Cooper featured it on his show Anderson Cooper 360, arguing about its borderline child pornographic aesthetic and its lack of privacy protection for young girls. /r/jailbait was shut down by site administrators who claimed it threatened "the structural integrity of the greater Reddit community." [22] Other distasteful sub-Reddits such as /r/beatingwomen and /r/picsofdeadbabies were also discussed being banned for the same reason as /r/jailbait, but currently are still running.


/r/roastme is an interesting subreddit because posts are created by users who are asking to be cyberbullied. To post a picture, the person must pose with proof that they are requesting to be roasted. Even though people post on this subreddit with requests for crude comments, users sometimes take it too far. Comments can quickly become racially charged and seem more like bullying than playful jabs [23]. Though posters ask to be roasted and provide proof that they do, these hurtful comments may do more damage than fun. While the subreddit has produced some funny roasts, constantly cyberbullying such a large number of people will inevitably lead to some users feeling dejected. The community has shown redeeming qualities in the past, highlighted by one post of an individual claiming to be depressed [24]. The members of the subreddit refused to roast them and instead provided the original poster motivational and comforting messages.

/r/SilkRoad and /r/DarkNetMarkets

The subreddit for Silk Road, the hidden dark web marketplace for illegal drugs and weapons, was a community formed to discuss a variety of topics involving the site. Users shared information about how to access Silk Road, methods for discreetly shipping items, and posted reviews and recommendations of sellers. It served as a guide for those unfamiliar with the service. While Reddit continued to let the subreddit exist, the sub’s moderators temporarily closed it in efforts to protect users’ identities following Silk Road’s first seizure.[25] r/DarkNetMarkets functioned similarly but applied to other dark net markets as well. In March 2015, the federal government issued a subpoena to Reddit to reveal personal information for 5 members of the subreddit who they linked to the administration behind the dark web market Evolution.[26] Reddit, citing a change in its content policy, banned r/DarkNetMarkets in March 2018. All content from the subreddit was removed. At the time of its closing, there were close to 160,000 subscribers.[27]

Violentacrez v.s. Gawker

Violentacrez was an infamous troll of Reddit who was the moderator for many controversial subreddits including /r/jailbait and /r/CreepShots. Then, in October 2012, Gawker journalist Adrian Chen decided to unmask the troll as Michael Brutsch. Chen reportedly contacted Brutsch before his outing. Brutsch did not deny the things he had done but instead begged for his name not to be published, saying that it would have a detrimental cost to his disabled wife. Chen went ahead and published the piece with his name in it and Brutsch lost his job and his wife's life insurance immediately; when this was reported to the public it was celebrated. [28]

The CEO of Reddit, Yishan Wong, defended the content the Brutsch had posted on the site. “We stand for free speech,” Wong wrote in a private post on the site. “We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it. Not because that’s the law in the United States … but because we believe in that ideal independently.” Wong stood by this ideal too when he condemned different subreddits for banning the Gawker link, although many still did. [29]


In 2015, in accordance with a new harassment policy, Reddit's admin team banned /r/fatpeoplehate, a subreddit devoted to sharing deprecating and hateful stories and pictures about fat people. In response, users of the site cited "political correctness gone wild" and started a Reddit clone called with no censorship.[30] There is an ongoing ethical debate about censorship. Some argue that censoring online hate is unethical because it restricts freedom of speech. However, some argue in favor of "ethical censorship" in which particular content is censored in order to protect others. Reddit censored /r/fatpeoplehate in order to protect the victims of the hate, but in doing so censored others. The debate continues about when to draw the line when it comes to censorship, but Reddit took a stand in order to maintain a more positive online environment.


Reddit has provided the internet with a platform where E-communities can congregate around both popular and obscure topics. As a fairly open-ended social network, even ethically convoluted interests can result in a forum, discussion-based sub-Reddit. While employing several moderators to monitor the content, these mods are seen as bias-laden, imperfect, and at odds with certain values of the Reddit community, such as freedom of speech. No E-community is perfect or free from ethical challenges, and Reddit is no exception. However, at its core, Reddit is trying to enable geographically disparate users to engage is the community, civic discussion, and intellectualism, which is a fairly noble undertaking in and of itself.

See Also

External Links


  1. Reddit Retrieved on 18 April 2016.
  2. Reddit FAQs [1]
  3. Bergstrom, K. (2011). Retrieved on 18 April 2016
  4. [2]
  5. CrunchBase. reddit Retrieved on 18 April 2016.
  7. Madrigal, Alexis C. (January 7, 2014).Ask Me Anything: How a Weird Internet Thing Became a New Form of Media The Atlantic. Retrieved April 23, 2017.
  8. "Reddit Arrows"" Retrieved on 16 April 2016
  9. Bergstrom, K. (2011). Don't feed the troll: Shutting down debate about community expectations on First Monday, 16(8), pp. 10.
  10. Reddit FAQs
  11. "Reddit Worldwide Meetups". Retrieved 18 December 2011
  12. Reddit Help. ["Reddiquette."] Retrieved on 18 April 2016.
  13. thetacticalpanda (08/2011). "I just received some hate mail in my Reddit inbox. What's an appropriate response? Or is the only winning move not to play?" 15 August 2011. Retrieved on 18 April 2016.
  14. Sunstein, C. (2001). The daily me. In, Sunstein, Cass, (pp. 3-22). Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.
  15. Bergstrom, K. (2011). Don't feed the troll: Shutting down debate about community expectations on First Monday, 16(8), pp. 10.
  16. Baym, N. P. (1997). Interpreting soap operas and creating community: Inside an electronic fan culture. In Sara Kiesler, Culture of the Internet. (pp. 103-120).
  17. "Value Sensitive Design". Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation. 10 Feb 2019.
  18. Massanari, Adrienne. (2017). "Gamergate and the Fappening: How Reddit's algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures".
  19. Massanari, A. (2015). #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures. New Media & Society.
  20. /r/fakeid
  21. Reddit. "Shit Reddit Says." Retrieved on 18 April 2016.
  22. Reddit Staff. (10/2011). []
  23. Chris. “The Most Brutal Roast Me Posts From The Infamous Reddit Roast Me.” Can You Actually, Can You Actually, 18 Mar. 2019,
  24. Hays, Amina. “17-Year-Old With Depression Asks r/RoastMe To Roast His Photo So He'd Have A Reason To End It All, Internet Responds.” Bored Panda,
  25. Love, Dylan. “The Silk Road Users of Reddit Briefly Went Dark, but They’re Back Now“.[3] Business Insider. 3 Oct 2013.
  26. Greenberg, Andy. “Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark Web Drug Forum.”[4] Wired. 30 March 2015.
  27. Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo. “Reddit Bans Subreddits Dedicated to Dark Web Drug Markets and Selling Guns”.[5] Motherboard. 21 March 2018.
  28. boyd, danah. Truth, Lies, and ‘Doxxing’: The Real Moral of the Gawker/Reddit Story Retrieved on 10 April 2017.
  29. Fox News (2012). Reddit CEO defends free speech -- even for creeps like Violentacrez Retrieved on 10 April 2017.
  30. Robertson, Adi Reddit bans 'Fat People Hate' and other subreddits under new harassment rules. The Verge. Retrieved 4/23/17.

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