Silently banned from Reddit…

Reddit Alien - Screw You Buddy

For almost two years now I’ve been reading Reddit and posting material there, mostly in Programming but in other subreddits too. I’ve built up positive karma points there, I’ve never broken the site rules, and I’ve been a fairly regular reader there. A few days ago I posted a review on the new headphones I bought to the audio and headphones subreddits, and there wasn’t a single blip on them – no comments, no votes, nothing. That’s rather rare for reddit, usually there’s something. And then I noticed in the statistics on the blog that I was seeing no referrals from there at all either, which is very odd. I looked at the site and sure enough, there are the posts, so what’s happening?

It’s at this point that I find that noone else can see the posts at all. And I log into my user page from a test browser which isn’t logged into my account and find that my userpage on reddit is giving a 404 error.

Reddit User Page 404 error

So my first reaction is “what the…?”, and I send a message to the admins of the site asking what’s broken. Twice, in fact.

I’m still waiting to hear back, five days later.

In the meantime, however, I find that this is apparently standard practice for Reddit — if you’re judged to be at fault, you’re just silently dropped. They call it the zero point ban and as ways of dealing with your userbase go, it’s probably one of the more cowardly I’ve encountered. Here’s how it goes:

  • Firstly, you don’t document all the rules. Sure, there are basic site rules and FAQs and “Redditiquette”, but you don’t put everything in there.
  • Then, you let anyone at all report anyone else, without having to make a case beyond the initial accusation.
  • Then, you don’t let anyone know that they’ve been reported for something.
  • You make sure that users past records aren’t taken into account – so that even when your karma is good, it doesn’t matter.
  • Then you don’t let anyone know they’re being judged.
  • Then you don’t let anyone know if they’re found wanting.
  • Then you don’t tell them they’re being banned.

So, I have to go digging back through the spam reporting sub-reddit (which I didn’t even know existed this time a week ago) to find I had been accused at all, and since your username isn’t actually instantly visible (it’s in the link, so you have to run your mouse over it while watching the status bar), that’s not a trivial task when someone reports someone else every few minutes:

reddit - Reported For Spamming

Once I found that, I thought “Well, okay, at least I can argue my case here so”. Except, no, any comment you make here doesn’t come up because you’re banned by this point. Maybe if you’d been here earlier (as in 19 hours ago when I first found this) you could have argued your case – but because you didn’t get told you were up for review (you weren’t even downvoted by the person who reported you), you didn’t know you were being judged and now you’re right out of luck. So you can comment, and the system even notes that you have commented, but noone else can see your comment.

I might not even be all that annoyed, to be honest, but when you find that your accuser has been less active on the site than you, that he’s built up less karma than you have, that he’s never contributed anything original to the site and has only posted 26 links when you’ve posted over 260 (including some which were in the reddit.com top ten and which have tens to hundreds of thousands of hits) — well, that rankles. It’s just plain wrong.

Reddit karma pointsReddit accuser karma points

Granted, you couldn’t arrange things so that you must have more karma points than someone to accuse them of something, that just wouldn’t be fair either, but surely it’s only right to let people know they’ve been accused of something, right?

As a way of interacting with your users go, this is not just sub-par, it’s downright sneaky. And the cynic in me thinks that the fact that this requires a minimum amount of work by the admins, and that it still generates site traffic and ad clicks, are motives for either not fixing this, or designing it this way from the get-go, and that’s even more sneaky.

So now what?

Well, in the greatest traditions of websites everywhere, IYDLIGTFO. Between Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx, Propellor, Diigo, HackerNews, DZone, Buzz and others, it’s not like there isn’t any competition or alternatives aplenty. And if this is how Reddit treats its users, it’s not someplace to hang out anymore.

Censored Reddit Alien

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49 comments

  1. For those who might be wondering, no, it’s not fun trying to retune your LAMP stack while being dugg, reddited and stumbled all at the same time…

  2. It’s an anti-spam mechanism, isn’t it. It’s a mute button that keeps the excessive troll silent but busy.

    Reddit made the choice to employ this strategy to improve the quality of submissions and comments. What we don’t know is how many genuine trolls and spammers are silenced for every legitimate user unreasonably banned. Fortunately it’s extremely easy to generate a new Reddit account — which is part of the reason this mute function exists, I would expect. So the cost of this anti-spam measure is the inconvenience of the unreasonably-banned-user making a new account (once she frustratedly realizes she’s been banned, of course.)

    And while there are alternatives, they’re hardly equivalent experiences, in terms of content and community. Not that reddit is better–but some of these sites are quite tiny, some are much more niche-y, some are more slobberingly general. Point being, it sucks all the more for a loyal fan of any one site to be excluded.

    Solution: exactly this post. I expect there’ll be some kind of appeals process developed shortly.

  3. But it’s not an anti-spam mechanism – it’s a dodge around having to come up with an anti-spam mechanism. Simply ignoring completely any user who’s ever flagged, ever as a spammer, and having no process for appealing or even notification; that’s not an anti-spam mechanism, that’s a mechanism to let users ban one another and generally act out; and that in the long run needs more management than a proper anti-spam mechanism would.

  4. === popurls.com === popular today…

    yeah! this story has entered the popular today section on popurls.com…

  5. redthrowawayNo Gravatar

    I asked this same question. It’s to deal with spammers. If you think it was in error, pm an admin and they’ll review the case.

    The reddit mods are decent people. Just explain that you think you were shadowbanned in error.

    Also, you seem to think this happened because someone reported you. While they did report you, the report was reviewed by an admin and they agreed something you did broke the rules. Regular redditors can’t ban anyone.

  6. I did pm the admins. Twice. Five or six days ago. No reply.
    I also commented on the post where I was reported. No response.

    Also, if I was being reviewed, there’s an entire process (accusation, review, judgement, punishment) going on, focussed on my account, and the only party who’s not notified of this is me. That’s a broken model. I don’t expect a website to act like it was a courtroom, but this is too far in the opposite direction.

    And the review can’t have been complete – if they reviewed my account, they’d note that I read widely and up-and-down-voted stuff as it came in. I didn’t comment much, but that’s just personality, it’s not spamming. And the nature of the comments I did make would reflect that – they’re not all fratboy humour and lolcats, I tended to write stuff I thought though, which doesn’t earn you a lot of comment karma because of the nature of the site. Or, the admins just don’t have information in that depth on what we do on the site, in which case they can’t do a proper review. Either way, contacting the user is necessary to do a review properly.

  7. I caught my local newspaper using the “gag” tactic some time ago:

    http://www.shaunc.com/static/Commercial-Appeal-Censors_605.html

    For what it’s worth, the idea of a gag as behavioral control dates back at least to the earliest days of AOL, where a gagged user could spew whatever he wanted into a chat, but no one else could see it. However, I agree that it’s a cowardly way of dealing with the problem because it doesn’t present the user with any indication that they’ve been penalized. Legitimate users of a service, like me on the Commercial Appeal site and you on Reddit, have no obvious way to know that we were flagged and that we’re wasting our time when we try to contribute.

  8. Don’t know if you care, but this page got posted, and someone suggested this: http://www.reddit.com/r/modhelp

    Good luck.

  9. It might be worth talking to the mods instead of the admins…

  10. BTW, for the nice folks here who’re pointing out that the same post was submitted to different subreddits (right after it was written), please re-read your reddiquette guide:

    Please don’t:
    Complain about too many stories on a particular topic.
    Complain when a duplicate story finds more success than the original.
    Moderate a story based on your opinion of its source.

    When the rules say it’s fine, why do you think anyone’s going to think it’s wrong?

  11. This is known as the shadowban

    Banning a user from a web forum in such a way that the banned user is unaware of the ban. Usually takes the form of showing that user’s posts/profile/etc. only to that user; other users never see them. Considered underhanded chicken-shit behavior

    A bunch of people were Shadowbanned form fark, as they pay for “total fark” privilages it caused a stir. They are now to be found at Bannination(p) a forum of ubertrolls and nasties, but no one gets banned form there without the whol site discussing it and i’ve never known it to happen.

  12. An anti-troll mechanism?

    Real Redditors value their account and karma, trolls don’t give a crap about being banned and opening a new account. What a brilliant system. Shine on the people who care about the site and offer a ‘punishment’ to trolls that has no impact on them whatsoever.

  13. Balaji RamanathanNo Gravatar

    Reddit, in my personal experience, is filled with a bunch of juvenile a**holes who are holdovers from the days when the internet was nothing but a bunch of newsgroups. If you have participated in newsgroup discussions, you know what I am talking about as to the level of interaction and the general IQ level of the participants. People flaming each other endlessly, trolling for arguments, posting gratuitously stupid, ignorant, personal attacks just so that they can gain notoriety, etc., etc. Except in this case, the person with power over your postings (the mods and admins) can take sides and shadowban you so that you can’t even argue your case or make your point. It is cowardly and chicken-shit, but I consider it par for the course as far as a community like Reddit is concerned.

    And then they try to make up for it with this stupid system of “karma” points. What a laughably stupid system! Nobody needs to give you any reason for a downvote by writing comments. They can just get a page listing all your submissions and hit the downvote on all of them just for the heck of it. During my time at Reddit, I have seen my karma fluctuate wildly from day to day, probably because of such behavior by people unhappy with something I said. Ultimately, I stopped paying attention to that metric altogether. Eventually, I stopped paying attention to Reddit too . . .

    When I used to hang out there, I never found anything useful or worth reading by browsing through Reddit that I wouldn’t have found anyways by doing my usual rounds of new websites, but at least I wouldn’t have to read a bunch of inane comments and other such nonsense. I would say, if you have been banned, good for you. Think good riddance to bad rubbish, and move on. I consider Reddit part of the internet wastelands. It attracts a specific type of internet user, the user who gets his daily adrenaline rush by ganging up on some stranger with flame attacks along with a bunch of other such adrenaline junkies. No wonder it is a fringe that most regular users of the internet have never heard of. As I read in one particularly tasteless but apt joke, Reddit is like the special olympics. Even if you win, you are still retarded!

  14. Welcome to Shadowbanning, aka, what Fark does to you. Screw that. Go to bannination.com

  15. I agree with the article — this is a half-ass method that allows one jerk out there to take revenge on another person.

    It’s lazy and corrupt.

    There’s even a sub-Reddit for people to see if they’ve been banned:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/ShadowBanned

    It exists because it’s really popular for someone to read your posts, decide they don’t like your opinions, and then report you.

    And Reddit like a zombie just goes ahead with the ban.

  16. Yep, as Twitch and Lard Baron have said, welcome to the land we know as Shadowbanning. Fark did it and as a result, we made the bannination. If you can hack the rawness of the place, you’ll have fun.

  17. It’s called shadow banning. FARK does the same thing. Yes, it’s cowardly and it’s abused by moderators. Even worse, FARK will shadow ban you and continue to collect subscription fees.

    http://www.bannination.com doesn’t do that sort of thing. It’s were a lot of pissed off Fark users went.

  18. You would be more than welcome at TheSaloon.net.

  19. Bannination.com isn’t just frequented by those that couldn’t behave themselves on Fark. There are plenty of normal people there too, like me, so don’t be put off. You should definately visit sometime.

  20. They call it shadowbanning at fark.

  21. […] didn’t notice at the time, what with all the reddit fun, and then all the fun that happened on the server as a result of all the reddit fun, but […]

  22. I too just got shadow banned. No warning, no idea what i did.
    I messaged the admins, no reply. I emailed accounts at reddit, who knows
    if they will answer.

    I am really disappointed, I have been on reddit for almost two years. It has become
    my favorite site. I did not say anything to cause me to be banned, that I can find.
    I have a good amount of comment/link karma….

    I will see what happens in the next few days, if it does not get fixed I will delete the account,
    take the reddit stickers off my truck, and stop using the site.

  23. Saul ThomasNo Gravatar

    Reddit starts out as a great experience but over time the glaring flaws inherent in the design of the site become unbearable. Sorry about your experience.

  24. The fact is is that their mechanism of blocking spam / rubbish or whatever you want to call it is an incredibly primitive algorithm that is probably just a huge bunch of “if / else” statements in their code.

    reddit is great, but lets face it – They clearly don’t A+ coders developing it.

  25. That’s surprising. You would’ve thought they’d understand how fickle a thing the userbase is — consider MySpace, for instance. It’s also a real catch-22 as soon as you have been banned. Your only real possibility of trying your case is to create another account, which would be against the rules both as ban-evasion and duplicate-account usage. They should reconsider their admins.

  26. Sorry mate but there is so much spam on reddit, and no one has yet come up with a better method, shit like this will happen.
    and to be frank you look like a spammer from your user page, all links to your blog.

  27. To be blunt, the whole point of the article, and the crux of the argument, was that Reddit’s definition of spam is wrong, because if your definition of spam includes actual, genuine, non-commercial and novel content if submitted by its author, then your definition is bogus.

    Put it this way – if anyone else had submitted content from my site, they would have earned karma points for being a good reddit user; but when I do it with precisely the same content, it’s spam. In other words, your classification of the content is dependent not on the content, but on the poster. And that’s wrong and broken.

    In fact, if you can earn karma points submitting my content, but I can only get banned as a spammer and you can then continue to earn karma points submitting content I write while banned, then your anti-spam mechanism isn’t an anti-spam mechanism, it’s ethically theft.

    Hence this page and the automatic redirect to it if you try to link any other content here on reddit.com

  28. […] Good article about another banning experience at Stochastic Geometry. Lists a pretty good collection of problems with this system. […]

  29. My mag got banned from Reddit despite being an independent local mag written by journalists so no copyright issues whatsoever no question of adult content or anything illegal being posted. No idea why. No chance of redress. Nothing controversial posted except daily headlines which obviously upset someone. No touting for advertising or anything. Attack on free speech and independent, verified professional journalism. Disgusted when we can’t contact the person who caused the ban or reported us as spam. We spam no-one yet now apparently have been libelled as spammers! At least we have the guts to put our IDs and contact addresses to our stories and actions. I can only assume that free speech and independent media is something Reddit is against.

  30. morrisonsghostNo Gravatar

    My account disappeared, seemingly for no reason. I haven’t linked to the old blog I used to write for over a year. I never submitted many links either, mostly just up/downvoted and commented. And now my account has disappeared, and when I try to recover my password, it turns out my username does not exist. I thought about messaging the admins about it, but then I thought about how much reddit had been going down hill. And so I lurked for a few weeks and decided that it was better that my account was deleted. I can still lurk and read articles, but I don’t have to worry about getting sucked in to discussion with the seemingly endless stream of idiots who populate reddit now. So….Thanks whoever banned me.

  31. Create a new account for each submission.
    Problem solved.

  32. That is indeed incredibly cowardly. I thought reddit was supposed to be a cool, anti-censorship site. But obviously not. It seems the only recourse against this policy is to create a new account for every post. I wonder if there’s a Firefox plug-in to automate that, if not, perhaps someone could whip one up.

  33. Eric WalrumNo Gravatar

    it is true what has been said above. Until today it has not improved. I have made my own experience, too.
    Also I am stunned by the language, in many forums the word f*** is commonly used to insult people, tolerated by moderators even if reported. On the other hand, constructive criticism and controversial views are banned easily. My conclusion is the people at reddit are a**holes and lack fundamental understanding of the substance of what they are moderating.
    The only reason why it makes sense to deal with such crap is it provides a tool for boosting website traffic, for free at very short time. I don´t know any other sytsem which a comparable impact.
    That´s why it is misused also. What some people consider as marketing instrument to promote valuable content, other people consider as spam. That´s life. The only problem is that juvenile premature a**holes are taking the judgement.

  34. I too have been zero ponit banned on a reddit gold account all because I posted a few articles that nobody_nowhere (yes that was the real name of the individual did not like) . I was a memeber if reddit for a full 6 hours. Even worse after contributing $30 dollars to their cause for reddit gold. I made the contribution not realizing I was banned…Ironic they will take your money, but not inform you of the Ban.

    My only guess is that their chaotic spam reporting system, is chaotic for a reason. Many countries that they want to exapnd into have active censorship policies. With Reddit utilzing a combination of a zero appeal process as well as no warning system. They can mold the community in a way that they all have similar base values. Otherwise keeping the thinkers and those that question out….

    Whether that is their intent or not, their current system will most likely result in that one caste mind scenario. I am actually posting a warning to the readers of my blog not to post any articles from the blog on reddit with any reddit account or IP address that they value…..

    In my humble opinion, until this issue with their bizzare spam reporting system is fixed…Reddits only value is for crude humor and a place where under age kids can gain access to porn… I would like to see Reddit prove otherwise they really had, and still have potential if they get their act together….

  35. igreekorisNo Gravatar

    Here it is 2 years later, and this is still happening. Oddly enough, I joined Reddit in reaction to being shadow banned by Buzzfeed. I am stumped as to why, though now that I read your post, I think I might know why now: because another commenter there objected to my very existence and like a good party member, reported me to the authorities. Wow. I’m not party line person, I’m not liberal all the time, but I’m also not conservative all the time. I’m like most people, it depends on the subject.

    It took me a few days to figure out that my posts would not show in the post thread but would on my profile page though not due to technical error. To confirm my suspicion, I created a second account “shadowbanned” and was able to post a few visible comments, on topic but including a scolding sentence to the BF readers/admins/whoever, including my original BF name. Shortly, they disappeared too. To be clear, I too had not posted anything remotely objectionable, just my little opinion, without vulgarity, profanity, ad hominem, flaming, or the like. About half of my comments would be benign, hohum, pro or con vote, in line with the majority but about half would be honest, direct dissent–in all cases, they reflected my genuine opinion. Now, I didn’t think at first that Buzzfeed was an echo chamber, but now I know I’m wrong.

    I did notice when I was poking around at Reddit that some subs would openly admit in their rules that “shadow banning has been known to happen.” I thought to myself “what? you act like that’s ok.” I joined anyway to see if I could start a topic about being shadow banned at Buzzfeed. That was just a few days ago but I thought at least one person would chime in. Nothing. I don’t think I’ve been shadow banned at Reddit yet, but considering how hard it is to find any open discussion about it anywhere, I am frankly expecting it to happen any second. No one can talk about fight club, it would appear.

    I agree with your argument. If a commenter is expected to give a site click biz, and they’re good clickers, then they are essentially your product. You can’t call yourself a liberal, like Buzzfeed and Reddit consider themselves, and stifle speech without at least a fair hearing, while tricking the user into giving you click biz anyway. That would make anyone feel mugged.

    Sorry to go on and on, but I’m still a bit outraged about it. I didn’t deserve it and for all I know there are other BF commenters who would have voted against banning me, easily outnumbering whoever turned me in just because they don’t like my politics. But they will never get a chance to speak on my behalf because they don’t even know what’s happened. It’s Orwellian.

    Anyway, sorry to say, the practice has not fallen out of favor at all, it is more rampant. And considering how easy it is to do, with no accountability, no repercussions unless and until it is roundly denounced by everyone, I suspect it is happening everywhere and will continue at abusive levels.

  36. I’ve been shadow banned for a week and I just found out, but I can’t find exactly where is the accusation, or the conversation discussing it. The subreddit to report spammers only shows submissions from the previous 2 days, so I won’t find it there, and the search option doesn’t come up with anything when I search for my account name. How can you investigate it?

  37. Tell it like it isNo Gravatar

    Shadow-banning was invented on Topix, one of the co-founders of Topix is Rich Skrenta, a hacker and computer geek, who invented the Elk Cloner – later named Malware – virus in high school.

    It is an extremely unethical method of censorship, you see your comments, no one else does. A poster can post for many days before realizing their comments are not seen.

    No one should practice it.

  38. There are lots of spammers. They come in mainly on the top pages you see before you log on. For those it is a good system.

    But for the long term user, it sucks. There is a sub called /r/shadowban where supposedly you can question your ban. Since I have learned of it, it seems no one answers. It’s like a pacifier to make you go away.

    Reddit used not to be like this. But when Digg shut down, all the 4chan folks came with their cat memes and what have you and it went down hill from there.

    Yah, it sucks being shadowbanned when you don’t deserve it. It sucks that some little a**hole can put your account in jeopardy just because he’s a smartaleck and doesn’t really have a valid reason beyond some sort of imagined slight.

    I’ve been there a long time. Should I get shadowbanned, I will not go make a new account. It will be the end of reddit as far as I am concerned. It’s a poor way to treat long term members.

  39. The problem with Reddit is gangs of potty mouth trolls who destroy all value in the site by ganging up and replying with extremely rude and inappropriate comments. Any attempt to respond in any fashion gets met with downvotes.

    Shadowbanning is simply the obscene and unjust practice of banning people based on failed automation and reporting practices instead of using any kind of due process or real active moderation.

    Most people don’t know for example that on Twitter, accounts with less than about 500 Followers are shadowbanned from discussions with celebrities!!!! Twitter deliberately deceives you and makes you believe your post is in a public view. Log out of Twitter and your contribution to the conversation disappears. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON TWITTER ARE BEING LIED TO. They are basically typing their opinions into thin air and not being seen when they post to a large celebrity thread.

    What you describe on Reddit sounds like what is typical on all of these sites. The Trolls know the system and how it works better than the respectful users who post real content. The Trolls go to war with you and mis-use all of their knowledge to get you taken out.

  40. got banned recently for posting awesome content, but there is nothing that sends as much traffic as reddit.. there should be an alternative to reddit

  41. SterquilinusNo Gravatar

    I agree with the other people who have claimed that Reddit is corrupt, this shadowban is part of a wall they built to hide their corruption, particularly their commercially and politically motivated censorship.

    Reddit has become what it claims to hate.

  42. Yeah, being shadowbanned isn’t nice. Especially since you aren’t notified and don’t spam. If spamming means posting the odd link every few days/weeks then my understanding of spam is wrong. Nevertheless, if anyone is looking for a tech blog friendly curation site (Reddit isn’t that) where you can share quality content with the community of IT folks, consider Curah (http://curah.microsoft.com/).

  43. Well, the only way this will end, is in tears. We can help this along by amplifying the effect. I would urge you to report every single comment you disagree with. Once we are regularly getting 1000’s of other Reddit users banned, then the system will naturally disintegrate, hopefully to be replaced by something better. Spammers are a real problem, so I understand the need to deal with them, but as always with humans, power corrupts. It’s the same on Wikipedia – you can’t do anything there without running into wiki-lawyers immediately, some of whom are paid to sit there arguing all day, and getting their friends to back them up.

  44. Hi,

    http://www.reddit.com/r/POLITIC/comments/2i4osc/136_user_accounts_shadow_banned_reddit_banned/

    I have 137 Reddit accounts all of which are shadow banned, new accounts I make from home are instantly S/B’d before a single post.

    The new ones I register from i’net cafes and from the local library, are S/B’s as soon as I hit the registration link.

    Q: Are you aware of any way I can register and post onto Reddit without giving away my ip or web address .. some ppl have suggested TOR.

    Martin Timothy, Brisbane Au.

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