Can Reddit—the Internet’s Greatest Authenticity Machine—Survive Its Own IPO?

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Alyssa Videlock was 11 years aged erstwhile she started searching for group for illustration her connected nan internet. What she found, backmost successful nan early 2000s, was not astatine each what she’d hoped for. “Being trans online was not really a thing,” she says. “There was fetish worldly for it, and location were stories astir transformation. But it was either porn aliases … porn.”

So Videlock was particularly grateful, astir a decade later, erstwhile she started exploring Reddit. She was still closeted to her family and friends, and uncovering a spot wherever she could speak pinch different trans group kept her sane, she says. On Reddit, trans group had spot successful numbers and powerfulness against nan aggravation of trolls. Through an elaborate strategy of unpaid moderators, Reddit allows its communities—called subreddits aliases subs—to cultivate their ain rules, cultures, and protections. The subs that Videlock frequented, specified arsenic r/asktransgender and r/MtF, were peculiarly bully astatine fencing retired harassment. “It felt for illustration I could make myself known there,” she says.

For Videlock, lurking connected Reddit became a prelude to posting each now and then—which yet became a prelude to making herself known successful nan existent world, and successful 2017 she started to transition. A mates of years later, she tuned successful to a video of a trans female playing soft connected Reddit’s live­streaming service, r/pan, and was moved to watch arsenic moderators changeable down 1 vicious remark aft another. The spectacle inspired her to go a moderator herself.

The 33-year-old package developer, who lives successful New York, went connected to unpaid astir 5 hours a day, 7 days a week—exorcising spam, breaking up fights, and removing hateful slurs connected a fistful of subreddits, including r/lgbt, 1 of Reddit’s larger subs. She joined nan ranks of much than 60,000 mods who negociate subreddits ranging from nan imaginative (r/nosleep, a organization of group who constitute first-person scary fiction) and nan supportive (r/REDDITORSINRECOVERY) to nan predictably crass (r/ratemypoo) and nan unpredictably disgusting (r/FiftyFifty, a 2.2 million–member organization for sharing unsighted links, wherever astir half lead to thing stomach-turning).

For bully and for ill, Reddit has agelong been an land of authenticity successful an progressively artificial world: a spot wherever existent people, hiding down nan privateness of clone names, stock their rabid enthusiasms, expertise, and morbid thoughts; wherever viral memes and movements bubble up from a primordial crockery of upvotes and chatter; wherever a cardinal users each donate $1 to a alien conscionable to make a millionaire for nan nosy of it; and wherever group pinch drinking problems, parenting crises, crushing indebtedness loads, aliases gender disorder tin find 1 different and comparison notes connected nan struggle. (Reddit, by nan estimate of an big manufacture expert, besides has much porn than PornHub—an assertion Reddit disputes.)

After years arsenic a comparatively quiet user, Videlock gained a full caller appreciation for Reddit arsenic a volunteer. She had besides moderated connected Discord, but location was nary comparison: Reddit mods shared devices and tricks that empowered them to beryllium acold much preemptive and strategic. Sometimes, for example, trolls station vicious comments and past quickly delete their relationship aliases nan remark itself—a drive-by maneuver that helps them evade discovery and penalties. As a Reddit mod, Videlock had a free third-party app astatine her disposal that allowed her to hunt down those deleted comments retroactively.

Whenever Reddit unit asked for feedback from mods, Alyssa Videlock stepped up.

Being a Reddit mod also, Videlock realized, gave her nan receptor of a awesome societal media company. For a website pinch 73 cardinal regular users and much than 100,000 subreddits, Reddit’s paid unit is remarkably small—about 2,000 labor and a fewer 100 contractors successful San Francisco, New York, and a fistful of cities extracurricular nan US. Whenever unit asked moderators for feedback, Videlock stepped up: She sewage connected telephone calls, took surveys, answered repeated questions astir her experience. What keeps you here? How do you place bad apples? When Reddit rolled retired caller features, Videlock ever offered to springiness them a try.

And truthful it was that successful early June 2023, a staffer connected Reddit’s organization guidance team—the portion of nan institution that deals astir straight pinch moderators—asked Videlock and a fewer different unpaid leaders to subordinate a video telephone pinch Reddit cofounder and CEO Steve Huffman. The executive wanted to soft complete fast-spreading concerns astir a precocious announced argumentation change. For nan first time, nan institution would complaint for entree to its exertion programming interface, aliases API, nan strategy by which package developers from extracurricular nan institution had been pulling content from Reddit for astir 15 years.