Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Information War Kicks into High Gear on Reddit: A List of Open Subreddits and How to Deal with Censorship

I. Information War on Reddit

The censorship from the front pages of Reddit (2 ) of Glenn Greenwald’s story on the infiltration of the Internet by shills is becoming mainstream news, and the irony of this is just delicious. As Greenwald pointed out on his Twitter account:
“The key to solving media woes is to have random, anonymous, bitter, partisan Reddit moderators decide what is and isn't ‘news’”

How the Government Manipulates Your Thoughts Online

Censorship on Reddit is, of course, not new. It kicked into high gear about four years ago when our corporate mainstream media started lumping the site together with the likes of Facebook – a serious disservice to the portal. Unfortunately, gatekeepers in control of some of the subReddit took this to heart - some would argue that they were plants from the beginning but we’ll leave that alone for now - and they started to change the rules of the game (Reddit, owned by Condé Nast, a division of Advance Publications, an American media company “ranked as the 52nd largest private company in the United States”, was guilty of this as well, but we’ll also leave that alone for now).

Censorship on Reddit first began with altering “the rules” for submissions - each subReddit has their own - and once the gatekeepers - some of the moderators (mods) - realized that news which they did not agree with was making it to the front page, they began to delete the submissions. Some of the most censored subReddits even began to ban certain users from submitting content.

What’s happened to many subReddits is that they have transformed from open forums where users could disseminate information that they deemed important, to censored threads where shills control the news, much like what most of western mainstream media has become. Very unfortunate since it was Reddit’s open uncensored policy that made it one of the most important sites online, putting it on many peoples radar.

As Thomas Drake has pointed out, we are in the midst of a war on information and having access to a space where uncensored thought can be shared is vital to a free society:
“It’s important. Very few people are still getting it. It is an information war. See, information is power. Information is the coin of the realm, and the government has decided in the Internet age, the way to control it is to own it. Hayden actually said this well over a decade ago, that ‘we have to own the net.’ I don’t think people fully appreciated what that meant.” - quoted text begins at approximately 5:20 in the following video.
NSA Whistleblower was Witness to 9/11 Foreknowledge

Don’t get me wrong, Reddit is still very important and will remain so for some time, but many of the subReddits have been infiltrated by what Greenwald refers to as “covert agents” - some being intentional plants, some unwitting cohorts of the system - and these subReddits should not be your main source of information, not by a long shot, and some should be abandoned altogether.

With over 340,000 subReddits I won’t bother listing the ones that I know are being moderated by zealots censoring news up the yin-yang, suffice it to say, many of the main subs are on the list. What I will do though is list a few subReddits that I am aware of that are well worth joining. Your post may not make it to the front page, or get any upvotes, but the odds are that it will not be censored, and if it is, you should raise hell (2, 3) - see Part III and IV on how to do this.

II. List of Open subReddits

Below you will find the top subReddits that I use for my news feed in regards to economics and politics. Solo or in combination as multiReddits, they should provide an accurate picture of what’s going on in the world, and remember, it’s always a good idea and highly recommended to check out the comments of stories that you find interesting, as well as the ‘new’ and ‘rising’ sections. And always be diligent, many new subReddits are created on a regular basis, mainly in response to the censorship, so check the “other discussions” section regularly to find these new subs.
  • Anarchism, Bad_Cop_No_Donut, Libertarian, restorethefourth, ronpaul, Orwellian, and socialism
  • Bitcoin and Bitcoinserious
  • collapse, PostCollapse, and Survival
  • conspiracy, ConspiracyX, DescentIntoTyranny, EndlessWar , evolutionReddit, POLITIC , undelete, Africa, altnewz, censorship, worldpolitics
  • cordcutters, TechNewsToday, and technology (/r/technology with a grain of salt, a serious grain of salt, a very serious grain of salt, bye bye /r/technology)
  • DepthHub, and TrueReddit
  • cannabis, Drugs, eldertrees, Marijuana, MMJ, and timetolegalize
  • Economics and economy
  • energy, environment, Green, Health, nature, oceans, and water
  • farming, gardening, homestead, and Permaculture
  • Futurology and gadgets
  • IWantOut, jobs, and lostgeneration
  • lectures
  • education, math, matheducation, and mathpics
  • opensource, Piracy, torrents, and trackers
  • MapPorn, politics (I included /r/politics because, even though it is heavily censored and should not be your only source of news, not by a long shot, it is still worth the visit), PoliticalHumor, PoliticalModeration, and Politics_Uncensored
  • privacy, snowden, WikiLeaks
  • singularity, Transhuman, and Transhumanism

  • III. How You’re Censored and What You Can Do about It

    There are four main ways that shills try and control the flow of information on Reddit:
    • First, you may get banned. If you are, your only discourse is to appeal your banishment to the mods, which probably won’t get you far, or if you really want to participate in the sub, you can just create a new identity and hop right back in. For me, if I get banned, it means that the subReddit is controlled by “bitter, partisan” mods and is garbage, so I just leave and never look back.

    • Second, you may face mass downvoting by shills. This comes in waves in certain subs at certain times, or is constant in others. If it’s constant downvoting in a specific sub, then you may want to read the “rules” of the sub and decide if you really belong there. If it comes in waves, there is not much you can do about it other than to make a self-post and find out if others have experienced the same phenomenon. A posse of shills is usually involved in this kind of activity, and they usually appear when important news has or is about to hit the net.

    • The third way that Reddit is censored is by banning domains. There isn’t much you can do about this other than putting together a large group and creating a petition to reinstate a domain. Since I haven’t participated in any action like this I really can’t advise further.

    • The fourth and most common form of censorship is when mods remove your post. There are three things you can do if this occurs:
      1) Delete the post and submit it again in a few hours and see where that takes you.

      2) Find and submit an article from a different source discussing the same issue that may pass under the gatekeepers’ radar.

      3) Appeal to the mods. Ask them why they have deleted your submission and argue your point as best as you can. Your voice may reach one of the nonpartisan mods. This is by far the main way I challenge censorship. An example of how I deal with this is presented below in Part IV.
    If all else fails and you find that the censorship is too much, remember that Reddit is just a portal, a tool. So, one other option you do have is to create your own subReddit. You can do this either for archiving or sharing information. If you do take this step do it slowly so you can avoid pitfalls.

    IV. An Example of How to Deal with Censorship

    I try and challenge as many censored submissions as possible. Just like one should with all traffic fines, if the gatekeepers responsible for deleting posts are shills, I like to keep them occupied and make them earn their pay. This way they will have less time to censor others. We are in an information war and in my opinion one of the best ways to fight the good fight is to occupy your enemy’s time.

    Below you will find a segment from Democracy Now! that I submitted to /r/politics that was censored by one of the mods.

    I Was Beaten, Tortured: Pakistani Anti-Drone Activist Karim Khan on Being Abducted by Masked Men

    I decided to follow up on the censorship of this piece since I believed the story is very important and wanted it to reach as many people as possible. As I have stated previously, our foreign policy is the main reason that our economy is in disarray, and this story highlights what’s wrong with our foreign policy, specifically the part where Karim Khan, in reply to Amy Goodman’s question on how his community feels about the United States, states that:
    AMY GOODMAN: “Karim Khan, how does your community feel about the United States? How did they feel before the drone strikes? How do they feel now?”

    KARIM KHAN: “We don’t know about America before these difficulties and these clashes so much more, but after these drone strikes and these difficulties, we said that they are—they are criminal. They are cruel people. They have no such things about humanity. And they destroyed humanity. For example, as man in search of lies have rights, but we, the Muslim, the Pakistani Muslim, and the tribal people have no rights in this world. They are targeting us. They are declaring us terrorists before coming in this world. For example, determined baby—they killed her, and they declared her a terrorist. So, it’s very strange, and it’s not good. And we, the people, are—hate America and hate the air forces and their people. And we are thinking that there is no care for human, and there are no humanity in these people. So, it’s very bad, on our part, that they are killing our innocent people.”
    The reason given by one of the mods for censoring this submission was that the piece was ”Off Topic”click to enlarge and see top left corner.

    Luckily, /r/politics allows its users to challenge removal of posts so I messaged the mods to see if the decision would be reversed. A synopsis of the conversation follows (screen shot of the full conversation is provided below as well).

    In reply to the post being “Off Topic”, I messaged the mods stating that, “This post is US politics, it's about US drone strikes.” A mod replied with, “That's a huge stretch.” I repeated myself, “It's about US drone strikes in Pakistan, how in the world is that a huge stretch? What!”

    The mod responsible for removing the post provided a more detailed explanation:
    “It talks about an incident in which an anti-drone activist was attacked by unknown assailants. If it had been proven it was some sort of US covert operation then maybe yeah, it would belong here. It is strictly speculative and more appropriate for /r/news or some other sub.”
    It became evident that this mod did not fully grasp the concept of cause and effect and was stuck in a loop, obviously hypersensitive to anything resembling a conspiracy, so I decided to explain myself in more detail. Not that I believed that this mod would change his or her point of view, but because I was hoping that another mod was also reading this conversation, and maybe they would approve the post. My reply was:
    “It's US foreign policy, the drone strikes, that are the issue here, not the kidnapping. This is not about any conspiracies, this is about US foreign policy. This belongs in /r/politics. This is the reason for much of US domestic policy. This gave birth to the NSA [should have included, as it is now], the Patriot Act, NDAA. It's connected to Guantanamo, renditions, and secret detention sites. It's what makes up a huge part of the budget. Of course this is relevant to the United States. Of course this belongs on /r/politics. If you don't want to allow the post because you don't agree with it then please say so, but don't say it's not relevant to the US, because it is.”
    That’s when another mod stepped in and approved the post, stating that:
    “He is right, the article clearly states that the drones are US drones and it is talking about an activist against US drone strikes, which is relates to US politics since it is US policy when it comes to these drone strikes.

    “I say it is perfectly fine in this sub.”
    A rare reversal, but well worth it, and my many thanks to the approving mod. The full conversation below - Note: I was able to get the post approved, but the time stamp on the post could not be reset and since 20 hours had passed, the odds of it making to the front page were zero. On the recommendation of the mod that approved the post, I deleted the original submission and reposted the piece which in turn reset the clock. (click image to enlarge):

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