Reddit.com and its Influence on the World

Reddit.com is one of the most influential websites today. It was created in 2005, and today, it brings in over 2 billion page views, 35 million users, and it contains over 100 thousand sub-reddits. Reddit works by allowing anyone with an account to post, comment, or vote on anything they want on the site. The way reddit operates is why it is one of the leaders of free speech on the internet. The posts are organized by categories called “sub-reddits” which contain a wide range of material on one specific subject. An example of this would be a sub-reddit for a television show such as Breaking Bad where users can discuss episodes, write fictional fantasies about the show, or even post original art. The use of Reddit is very common among high school and college students to organize and regroup thoughts, and it is a great tool for learning. There are quite a few sub-reddits on science, engineering, and how our world works that are very popular on the site. Though, users come to reddit from all around the world, the community on the site is very close-knit with very similar thoughts and views. Most of the time, the community feel is a good thing, but other times it can lead to bullying and misinformation. Reddit.com is one of the most influential websites out there today because of its devoted and consistent community-base.

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A few years ago, some users on reddit came up with the idea to create a secret Santa on reddit for whoever wanted to join. It started off very small, but today, over 38 thousand people across over 150 countries actively involve themselves with the project. This secret Santa works by allowing anyone with a reddit account to sign up to receive gifts and the only promise is that they will send a gift to the person they were assigned to. Though, not everyone remains honest and sends a gift, a vast majority fulfills their promise and sends a gift to their randomly assigned person based on past posts and preferences. In a recent year’s reddit secret Santa, even Bill Gates got involved and sent a cow to a family in need of support and income. The involvement of such a well-known person boosted the popularity of the sub-reddit and got many more users involved with the project. The fact that so many people are willing to send out personal information about who they are and where they live is both amazingly trustworthy and very dangerous. Sending this type of information over the internet always has the opportunity to be misused and if given to the wrong population it can result in many different bad situations. Though this is very real and very possible, reddit has created a community where, for the most part, none of this information given away in good faith has been abused. This shows that these many reddit users are committed to creating a safe and collaborative community in which everyone can be involved and have a good experience. Another example of a similar sub-reddit is one called “Random acts of Pizza”. On this site, reddit users going through tough times can post their stories and show the reddit community that they are in need and odds are that someone will ask them for their address and send them a pizza via the internet. Though, these users have never met or connected with the people they send the pizzas too, they still feel a sense of satisfaction when they know they made someone’s day somewhere. The community values good-hearted people and those who are motivated to make a difference in the world.

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There are times when Reddit can be wrong about certain postings since not everything on the internet is accurate in reporting events that occur. Originally, the makers of reddit did not want personal information and witch hunts on the website.  For example, the Boston bombings were one scenario where the users crossed the line and why one should not always trust the influence of reddit and the internet as a whole. During the length of time when the Boston bombers’ identities were unknown, many users created threads on reddit devoted to reviewing security footage and looking for the culprits. People posted pictures with circles around suspicious looking people and reasons why they might have been the one to place the bomb. The thrill of the witch hunt and impact of the hive mind on reddit resulted in the community being convinced that two innocent people were actually the bombers. Local police was called on an Indian-American student. The student was actually found dead in a lake where the Brown University crew team trains. The name, Sunil Tripathi was trending on social media sites for weeks as people were convinced by the internet and reddit, specifically, that he was the bomber. It took until the discovery of the real Boston Bombers to clear Sunil’s name on the internet. “Reddit general manager Erik Martin apologized for the ‘dangerous speculation’ that ‘spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties.’” (Stanglin).

In late 2011/early 2012, a bill was proposed and mainly backed by Hollywood companies that wanted to stop online piracy. This bill was called the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA). What the bill aimed to do was prosecute anyone who illegally downloaded a file or had something on their website that was not their original intellectual property. The aim for this bill was just, but it was not nearly that simple. Under this bill, if any website was related at all to this illegal content, the website could be shut down and the operators of the website could be sent to jail. Even Google, Youtube, and many news sites could be shut down just because of this. And, the bill wouldn’t even solve the problem. Just because the domain name of a website was shut down, the content could still be very easily accessed just through its IP address. “In short, it wouldn’t stop the pirates from downloading illegal content any more than background checks stop a gang member from purchasing a hand gun.” (Broes). Reddit comes into play because they were on the front lines to stop this bill. Because this bill would forever alter the internet as it is now and destroy thousands of jobs, many people rallied behind them. First off, reddit created a sub-reddit devoted to informing people about what SOPA was and what they could do to help. The main thing that any citizen could do was inform those around them and write a letter to their local representative. On January 18, 2012, reddit and a few other big name websites that would be affected by SOPA planned a blackout where they would close the site and not allow any traffic through. This idea was proposed to show the public what parts of the internet would look like if this bill was passed. In short, they succeed. Reddit’s influence changed the minds of a great number of the public and even members of Congress (this can be seen in the simple infographic at the end of the paragraph). The fact that reddit and its community can create this much of a difference in the country and its politics is amazing. It shows that there are many intelligent and driven people in the community that commit to what they want and rally who they can to follow them.

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Reddit’s influence can do good and bad things, but either way, it can get things done. Whether it’s make someone happy with a gift or feed them for a night, reddit is capable of some pretty amazing things. Although, the community’s intentions were just and fair regarding the Boston Bombing, its influence created some damage that could not be reversed. When it comes down to it and the community is really driven to reach a goal, they can. The SOPA fiasco is a prime example of this. All in all, reddit and its community has a stand on every issue and they will be there for every future problem backing what they believe to be right.

 

Bibliographies:

Broes, Derek. “Why Should You Fear SOPA and PIPA?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Jan. 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

“Watch Now: Off Book | The Culture of Reddit | PBS Video.” PBS Video. PBS, 04 June 2012. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

Moseman, Andrew. “10 Facts About the Birth of Reddit.” Popular Mechanics. Hearst Communication, 5 Nov. 2013. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

“7 Lessons Learned While Building Reddit to 270 Million Page Views A Month – High Scalability -.” 7 Lessons Learned While Building Reddit to 270 Million Page Views A Month – High Scalability –. Todd Hoff, 17 May 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2014.

Frauenfelder, Mark. “How the Internet Blackout Affected Congressional Support for PIPA/SOPA.” Boing Boing How the Internet Blackout Affected Congressional Support ForPIPASOPA Comments. Boing Boing, 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

Alexander, Harriet. “Boston Bomb: Reddit Apologises for Identifying Wrong Suspects.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

Csanady, Ashley. “Snoop Dogg Now Owns Part of Reddit and That’s Not Even the Best Part.” Canadacom. Postmedia Network, 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

Ny1227. “Spoiler Alert: Bill Gates Did Not Get You, Because He Got Me. – Secret Santa 2013 – Redditgifts.” Redditgifts. N.p., 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.

 

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