Reddit Says It Expunged Hundreds Of Russian Propaganda Accounts

Reddit's CEO said the social news site was "cooperating with congressional inquiries."
Steve Huffman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Reddit Inc., pictured in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursda
Steve Huffman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Reddit Inc., pictured in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017.

Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only social media platforms that have been infiltrated by Russian propaganda. Reddit, America’s fourth-most popular site, admitted Monday that it’s been a target, too.

CEO Steve Huffman said in a Reddit post that the social news site had identified and removed “a few hundred” Russian propaganda accounts. These accounts were either of “Russian origin or content linking directly to known propaganda domains,” he said. “And of course, every account we find expands our search a little more.” 

Huffman noted that most of the suspicious accounts were removed in 2015 and 2016 by earlier efforts to restrict spam and abusive content. He said the company was “still looking deeply” into this problem and was “cooperating with congressional inquiries.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that congressional investigators planned to question Reddit and Tumblr representatives in their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Their interest was reportedly sparked by a Daily Beast report last week detailing how the Internet Research Agency ― the Kremlin-backed “troll factory” indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller last month ― used Reddit and Tumblr to interfere in the 2016 election. 

“Content from IRA-backed websites ... received hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of upvotes on subreddits like r/The_Donald and r/HillaryForPrison in the run-up to the election,” The Daily Beast reported.

In his post, Huffman described how “indirect propaganda” (like the upvoting by Reddit users described in the article) may pose an even greater and more challenging threat to American society than direct propaganda itself. 

He gave the example of how posts by Twitter account @TEN_GOP, which has since been outed as a Russian agent, were shared widely on Reddit.

“@TEN_GOP’s Tweets were amplified by thousands of Reddit users, and sadly, from everything we can tell, these users are mostly American, and appear to be unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda,” Huffman wrote. “I believe the biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense, and this is a burden we all bear.”

Tumblr is owned by Verizon’s Oath subsidiary, which also owns HuffPost.