Russia Election Investigation: Facebook Now, Is Reddit Next?

September 27, 2017, 11:11 PM UTC

Facebook is under pressure by Congress to provide information that will help fill in important gaps in the investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. But it’s not the only social media company to have played a role. Twitter also recently met with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss Russian activity on its site. And next on the government’s list may be Reddit, says a representative of Sen. Mark Warner, the committee’s ranking Democrat.

No stranger to controversy, Reddit is perhaps the web’s most influential website for memes, and it’s where many viral stories get their start. The freewheeling forum is favored by many anonymous web users, which also makes it home to all manner of trolls (as well as an exponentially larger amount of upstanding Internet citizens).

The website is full of unexpected things—like Bill Gates’ annual secret Santa gift giveaway—that delight Internet users and society at large. One popular feature is Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” events where celebrities, thinkers, and notable people of all stripes can be interviewed by the site’s many users.

But Warner is likely more interested in the website’s darker side, reports The Hill. For instance, Reddit also gave “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorists a place to congregate and collaborate, a controversy that Senate investigators will likely explore.

In the wake of the election, Reddit has tried to fix its faults. In February, the company came out forcibly against the alt-right, shutting down a channel dedicated to the white supremacist group because of “repeated violations of the terms of our content policy,” the company said in a statement.

But even without that forum, controversial content continues on the site today, even making its way to the president. Over the summer, President Trump retweeted a video of him body slamming a figure representing CNN that originally appeared on a Reddit forum. Another satirical video Trump shared on Twitter of the president hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton also got its start there.

According to The Hill, Warner is interested in examining if Russia used Reddit for social media influence. Experts note that several hoax stories caught fire on the site. For example, as The New York Times shows, just four hours after someone posted on Twitter about anti-Trump protestors being bussed into Austin, the tweet was posted to Reddit, where it was quickly “upvoted” (Reddit’s version of users liking a post) by users. Nine hours later the story made its way to Facebook where more than 300,000 people shared it. The busses were, in fact, part of a corporate conference.

Unlike with Facebook and Twitter, it’s unclear if any fake accounts or bots played into the rise of Reddit posts during the election season. But one thing is certain: Reddit is the fourth most popular website in the U.S., according to Alexa Internet. And it’s right behind Facebook.

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