Reddit has removed “a few hundred” Russian accounts involved in sharing 2016 election propaganda on the website. The news was revealed today in a post by Steve Huffman, who has served as Reddit CEO since 2015.
“We have found and removed a few hundred accounts, and of course, every account we find expands our search a little more,” Huffman wrote. “The vast majority of suspicious accounts we have found in the past months were banned back in 2015–2016 through our enhanced efforts to prevent abuse of the site generally.”
Reddit’s admission comes four days after the Daily Beast revealed the popular website was allegedly targeted by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Kremlin-connected Russian troll farm. According to an internal data leak, IRA agents amassed on Reddit, where they shared content from websites like Russian-linked BlackMattersUs.com using American proxies, posting them to subreddits r/The_Donald and r/HillaryForPrison.
“Russian trolls” claimed to host an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit last October, but the session never happened. When asked for comment, at the time, Reddit told ThinkProgress that it hadn’t “seen any evidence of them actually coordinating with any of the communities.”
Reddit did not immediately respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. We don’t know what type of content these “few hundred” Russian-related accounts posted, nor for how long. Huffman implied that many suspicious accounts were banned in 2015 and 2016, and it’s unclear why Reddit didn’t remove them entirely.
“...we've been taking action for a long time. We have been cagey about it publicly I know, which frustrates us as well, but it's an active investigation, and it's difficult to share specifics without undermining it,” Huffman wrote, responding to a Reddit user’s comment about withholding this information.
Today, Huffman seemed to downplay Reddit’s involvement in spreading IRA-backed content, saying that American users are ultimately—albeit unknowingly—to blame.
“The final case, indirect propaganda, is the most complex,” Huffman wrote. “For example, the Twitter account @TEN_GOP is now known to be a Russian agent. @TEN_GOP’s Tweets were amplified by thousands of Reddit users, and sadly, from everything we can tell, these users are mostly American, and appear to be unwittingly promoting Russian propaganda. I believe the biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense, and this is a burden we all bear.”
In classic Reddit form, Huffman’s overall attitude toward Russian trolls on the website is laissez-faire. For example, when asked today why Reddit hasn’t banned r/The_Donald, which regularly breaks Reddit’s rules, he wrote that the site should “let them fall apart from their own dysfunction.”