Upvote: This week on Reddit, what we learned from Alexander Song’s shooting threat

The University of Maryland incident shows how Reddit is changing as an online society.

Mar 3, 2020, 7:44 am*

Internet Culture

Kevin Morris 

Kevin Morris

In all likelihood, Alexander Song was probably never planning to go on a shooting rampage at the University of Maryland campus.

But as he learned Sunday morning, most people don’t take jokes about school massacres lightly. Even on Reddit.

“I’m thinking about going on a shooting rampage all around campus until the police come and kill me,” Song posted at the r/UMD forum Saturday night. Police arrested him twelve hours later after receiving phone calls from at least three Maryland students who had seen the post.

Did Reddit staff hand over Song’s identifying information? On Tuesday, Reddit general manager Erik Martin told me Reddit staff cooperated with the UMD police over the weekend, but wouldn’t elaborate further.

He did add, however, that this is probably the first time anyone’s been arrested after making such a threat on Reddit. Usually, this kind of thing is confined to real-name social networks like Facebook. It’s often just a plea for attention, after all.

Interestingly, Reddit launched a “Grow a College Subreddit” competition last fall that brought in 30,000 new subscribers to the site’s various college forums. Those are local communities tied together not by interests, like most of Reddit, but by a real-world connection. The r/UMD incident may be a bizarre but important signpost in Reddit’s gradual move from a link-sharing site to a pseudonymous social network.

Farshad Hemmati wants your upvote. So bad, in fact, that he’ll pay for it (eight cents, maybe a little more if you also leave a comment).

It’s no surprise wannabe social media entrepreneurs like Hemmati are desperate enough to fork over cash for upvotes. It’s hard to get noticed, especially when you’re product is so terrible. It is surprising, however, that they bother trying in the first place.

There are rumors of social media marketing masterminds who have figured out Reddit’s viral formula. But as Hemmati found out, Reddit remains one of the hardest sites to game. Unless you’re the Most Interesting Man in the World.

In other news, grandma gets subpoenaed for porn, redditors talk about skydivers from the stratosphere, and Gillian Jacobs double dips.

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*First Published: Mar 16, 2012, 8:13 pm