Reddit For Sale: How We Bought The Top Spot For $200 (reupload)

this story about reddit spot and

shilling problem was published at the

end of 2016 just as fake news became a

thing we even managed to get a fake news

story to the top of two informational

subreddits this is our very first story

so less than we think and don't forget

to like and share a couple of weeks ago

we got two made-up stories onto the

front page of Reddit for less than $200

reddit is the 25th most popular website

in the world in the United States it's

the 11th most popular website in fact it

gets about 230 million unique visitors

every month and for the people that do

use it they check back regularly each


the idea behind reddit is simple create

community around a particular topic and

submit stories and upvote the good ones

and downvote the bad ones

the discussion section works in the

exact same way up for insightful

comments and downvote

the spammers this system provides news

and information for thousands of news

blogs and web sites all over the

Internet it's show influential it even

attracts top celebrities academics and

even the president and with so many

people taking part in these

conversations every day its influence is

actually felt in the real world

take Bernie Sanders for example his

unpredictable rise can largely be

attributed to reddit with so much

influence should we be surprised that

people are trying to game the website

for their own benefit I have for the

past six maybe seven months then

actively manipulating what you all see

and hear in the news in general

redditors trusted that system of up

voting and down voting protects their

conversations from outside influence but

that trust in their content makes them a

powerful target for advertisers and any

external organization with a particular

agenda some red

have started to suspect the external

influences are having an effect on the

conversation specifically what I've been

studying is website called reddit and I

wrote a computer program every two

minutes Zoe's to gets the

most recent post and randomly without

looking at the title I upload it or I

download it the results are pretty

astounding if I were to upload something

initially the final score on average is

quite a bit higher than the average

score for any post if I downvote

something initially then the average

score is much much lower than if I would

have done nothing at all again this is

just one small nudge one tiny push and I

could change what happens online so

could a company get organized and start

to have an impact on the news that gets

through to our news feed each morning me

and Sam quartz up via Skype it only

takes three or four or five votes to

have a sizeable impact and so if you can

control three or four or five votes that

is you know five people working in some

firm then that can do a lot of work it

seems incredible but Tim's research

shows that just a small number of

accounts can have a massive impact on

these subreddits and this exact scenario

actually played out in the Bitcoin

subreddit Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency

that has our missions to replace the

cash in our wallet and we spoke to the

moderator of the subreddit Bochco he

told us that people supportive of

bitcoins vision were being automatically

downloaded every single time they posted

and for editors that were critical of

bitcoins vision they were being

automatically uploaded all of the

usernames you can see here have been

targeted in an automated attack we were

impressed with bashkirs research and we

were impressed with Tim's research but

we wanted to test it ourselves so we

started an investigation to see how easy

it would be to buy fake reddit accounts


hey how you doing thanks for answering

my call so I believe that you shall read

it accounts is that true yes great so

where do you buy your accounts from I'm

interested to know I have like the black

Kevlar from big plain form which are the

best accounts I can buy from you thank

you so much for helping me understand

how it works thank you bye bye


in less than an hour

we bought multiple fake accounts and

hundreds of upvotes

for less than $200 now we needed a story

so we faked up a character

Espen Lunt he's a professor of economics

from a Norwegian University and we

submitted a terrible factually

inaccurate story to medium we submitted

the story to Reddit United Kingdom with

our fake accounts and used up votes to

get it to hit the front page we've made

a positive case for brexit and started a

conversation about that topic on the UK

subreddit the headline stayed in its

high position for a number of hours and

Tim welling her explain to us why this

is important unless the post is removed

by the volunteer moderators the fake

headline border made very few reddit

users actually click through to read the

article even fewer read the comment

section most ready users are headline

browsers in the social digital media

movement headline visibility is key most

influence of ranking which dictates the

visibility of a post highly visible post

attracts more votes which further

increases the ranking and visibility our

first attempt had been successful but

what about if we went after a bigger

fish reddit videos has 12 million

subscribers would it be possible for us

to fake a story here well we submitted a

story to the subreddit we're using one

of our fake accounts it was a link to

season 2 trailer of narcos the title was

clearly an advert and then we bought

thousands of up votes from our contacts

we sat and watched this story rock it up

the front page as soon enough this fake

advert was at the number one spot and it

generated a huge and largely positive

conversation about the new season 2 of

narcos only a few redditors in the

comment section spotted that this was an

advert and we down voted those people

and anyone who is being positive about

the show we up voted them thus we had

completely skewed the conversations tone

a tool like this is the holy grail for

advertisers why because people any

people are more likely to accept a

message if they believe people in their

group have done the same

this fact was explicitly stated in

leaked GCHQ documents provided by Edward

Snowden it was written to help cyber

magicians disrupt deny and dissuade

online conversations we've proven the

reddit popularity can be bought and paid

for with simple online services and this

is clearly a huge problem right now

there is no way to tell whether reddits

enthusiasm for a particular idea or

product is real or bought and paid for

by some shady organization people argue

that reddit is just a website but we

think this is unfair its influence is

felt right across the internet and we've

demonstrated that it's news finds its

way into our feeds every morning we

share our investigation with Reddit but

it did not respond before publishing

I've been Phil Harper this is being

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