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The popular Russian news source has been accused of spamming to promote its stories on r/news.
The ban has not been well received by r/news’s 1.1 million readers, who believe it’s an unjustified act of censorship, but moderators made the case that RT has been spamming the subreddit.
“One example is plain domain frequency,” r/news moderator dougalsmacarthur commented. “The rule-of-thumb is 10 percent. If you submit a lot, and the proportion coming from a certain domain is way higher than that, you’re probably a spammer. If there’s a lot of users doing that a lot for one domain, you should investigate further to see if it’s people working for that domain.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to dougalsmacarthur for more details.
On r/news, fans of RT have argued the ban goes too far, removing a point of view they feel is underrepresented in the news media.
“Is there any way to reverse the effects of such spam rather than simply banning a source?” humanthought added. “We all know that RT can be ridiculously biased, but if you ban this source, you are pretty much banning a huge portion of the ‘other side of the story.’ There has to be a better way than censorship.”
The action against RT.com follows after major meme-creation sites Quickmeme and Meme Generator were banned site wide for the same reasons, and less than a day after redditors discovered that employees of Warner Bros. had spammed r/movies with posts promoting Getaway, an upcoming action movie starring Ethan Hawke.
Voting bots on Reddit use fake user accounts that upvote or downvote posts automatically. The more upvotes, the more visible a post becomes on Reddit and the more likely it hits the front page. With more than 67 million unique visitors in July alone, a spot on the front page usually results in a massive spike in visitor traffic and an increase in advertiser dollars.
For now the RT.com ban is confined to r/news. And considering Reddit only drives about 1.8 percent of the total traffic to RT.com (18.4 percent of its traffic is from Facebook, for example), chances are the ban won’t make much of a difference.
Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III
Fernando Alfonso III served as an early Reddit and 4chan reporter and the Daily Dot’s first art director until 2016. He’s gone on to report at Lexington’s Herald-Leader and at the Houston Chronicle.