Reddit Post About Russia-backed Misinformation Mysteriously Deleted, Prompting Outcry

Reddit is currently engulfed in controversy, after a post describing an alleged Russian misinformation effort on “the_donald” subreddit disappeared from the site without explanation. Reddit user DivestTrump posted a detailed account of what he believed to be Russian websites linking through American hosts to post propaganda on the Donald Trump subreddit. The post gained massive traction, being gilded multiple times and reaching the front page of r/all. The now-deleted post claims sites like “geotus.army” brought viewers to a Russian-owned website and were upvoted by the thousands on t_D.

After a day, the post mysteriously disappeared from the “fuckthealtright” subreddit, causing confusion amongst users of the platform. The original poster deleted their account and the post. Users wondered why such a post would mysteriously vanish, sparking conspiracy theories about the reddit admins, Russia and what possibly could have happened to run rampant. After a full day of speculation, reddit users finally got an answer.

The original poster, using an alternative account that has also since been deleted but reddit admins confirmed was legitimate, shared their reasons for deleting the account. “I pissed off spez and other admins by releasing the info when I did,” the user wrote. Spez is the account name of Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, who has actively pushed to keep  “the_Donald” from being deleted.

“When I made my post, the admins were caught off guard,” the OP wrote. “Spez gave me a brief 'I'm not mad, I'm disappointed' response. He seemed like he genuinely wanted to do a thorough dive on the reports and I cut that short. Remember that the sites were on reddit for over a year. So, sorry spez, but I don't feel that bad.”

In a November 2017 AMA on reddit, spez said the mods of “T_D” cooperate with reddit admins, so there’s no reason to delete the sub. “Finally, the_donald is a small part of a large problem we face in this country—that a large part of the population feels unheard, and the last thing we're going to do is take their voice away,” spez wrote.

The redditor claims they deleted the post because they were tired of dealing with “reddit trolls.” “I'm just done with this,” OP wrote. “I'm not interested in spending my time getting doxxed, death threats, brigades, witch hunts and general reddit vitriol for no good reason.”

Reddit admins have been quick to respond to users’ comments on the situation. Last night, on the mod support subreddit, admin Sporkicide said the platform was running its own investigation into the matter. Calling the reports a “double-edged sword,” the admin argued “they do draw attention to a valid concern, but they can also compromise our own investigation and sometimes lead to the operators of these sites immediately ceasing activity and turning to other avenues.”

Admin sodypop says reddit has banned some of the websites mentioned in the original post, including geotus.army, geotus.band, usareally.com and brutalist.press. “Looks like there's a lot of confusion and misinformation going around,” sodypop wrote. “The user deleted their account and content themselves. We were working with them with regards to the information they provided, and we will continue to investigate the issues they surfaced.”

The original post has since been reposted by other users with the banned URLs removed. The deletion of “the_Donald” has been a highly contested issue amongst the reddit community since before the 2016 election. Reddit has taken down subreddits they deemed “extreme” in the past, like r/incels or r/TheFappening, yet “the_donald” stays up. Only those inside the company have a real idea as to why.

 Here is Reddit's comment on the situation:

"We have been conducting our own investigation on these domains, and we will take appropriate action on those findings once that investigation is complete."

"Reddit has always had several measures in place to prevent or limit the impact of any malicious actors, including human jreview and moderation of suspicious activity and content. We have dedicated teams that enforce our site-wide policies, proactively go after bad actors on the site, and create engineering solutions to prevent them in the future. We also actively engage with the tech community and other industry organizations to inform and evolve our approach for detecting and preventing emerging malicious activity."

Join the Discussion