Facebook is currently under pressure from the U.S. government to provide detailed information surrounding the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. But it is not the only social networking company that could have played a role in the promotion of propaganda during the U.S. election. According to reports, Twitter recently met with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian activity on their social networking platform. Now, the hugely popular link-sharing website Reddit may go under investigation, says a representative of Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s ranking Democrat.
Reddit is arguably one of the world’s most popular websites for the propagation of memes. It is also a site where many stories go viral. The forum is favored among young users for the ability for a user to go anonymous, holding Ask Me Anything – an open interview forum where users can openly talk with Presidents, CEOs, and entertainers.
But, Representative Warner is interested in the website’s shadier side, according to The Hill. Following the election, Reddit has attempted to make changes. For example, earlier this year the company’s CEO Steve Huffman admitted to altering comments made by users. He said he edited comments that were posted by users because a significant number of them were abusive, arguing he was a pedophile and mentioned him by name.
“I am sorry for compromising the trust you all have in Reddit,” Huffman said in a post on Wednesday. “It is heartbreaking to think that my actions distracted people from their family over the holiday; instigated harassment of our moderators; and may have harmed Reddit itself, which I love more than just about anything.”
Then, over the summer, President Trump retweeted a video of him body-slamming a CNN effigy that originally appeared on Reddit. Another video parody Trump shared on Twitter of the President hitting a golf ball and striking Hillary Clinton also originated from Reddit.
According to The Hill, Mark Warner is interested in seeing if Russia used Reddit for its ability to make stories go viral. Analysts argue that several false news stories originated on Reddit. For instance, as The New York Times points out, four hours after someone posted on Twitter about anti-Trump protesters being shuttled into Austin, the tweeted was posted to Reddit, where it link was rapidly “upvoted” by users. Several hours later, the story was shared on Facebook where over 300,000 users shared it. However, the busses were, in fact, part of a corporate conference and not protesters.
At this point it is unclear whether or not fake accounts or bots played a role in the rise of Reddit posts during the election campaign. But, it is important to understand the power of Reddit, which is the fourth most popular website in the United States, according to Alexa.