Dude, where’s the moderator?

Though social news site Reddit’s content is determined by voting, it’s hardly a democracy: ultimate power resides in the hands of the site’s moderators and admins.

But that doesn’t mean people power is dead.

A popular movement came from nowhere yesterday in the site’s question and answer section, IAmA (“I am a”), leading to a major change: the forum will more than double its all-volunteer staff of moderators.

The movement arose out of a shared frustration in the forum’s slow-moving verification process.

The forum’s popularity comes from the wide variety of real people who post: from celebrities like Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, to former representative Anthony Weiner, to astronauts and cosmonauts.

Yet because of an influx of phony posts (one of which we reported on last month), moderators are supposed to verify that posters really are who they claim.

In a forum with over 350,000 subscribers, dozens of posts a day, and only ten moderators, that’s no easy task. And it wasn’t uncommon recently for the subreddit’s front page to feature nothing but unverified posts.

That’s why redditor reseph, frustrated with the lack of verification, wrote a post yesterday with the title: “Dear mods: Why haven’t there been any verified post in days?

That post shot to the top of the subreddit’s frontpage, quickly drawing over 500 comments and the attention of the moderators.

So much attention, in fact, that within just five hours the subreddit’s creator, 32bytes, posted an announcement.

The forum would add 8-20 moderators, 32bytes said, and invited redditors go through a surprisingly complicated application process to become one. A process, the moderator said, that was necessary because of the often sensitive nature of verification:

“Our largest potential concern is that a moderator whom we may add could end up being malicious and end up distributing sensitive confidential information of a user who has submitted personal information.”

No new moderators have been added yet. But already the front page features two verified posts.

And regardless, the move shows just how much ordinary redditors can influence big decisions on the site. People power (redditor power?), it seems, is alive and well.

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris

Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.