The question of who owns or controls Reddit has been a point of contention for many years, especially with the number of controversies surrounding the platform. So, is Reddit Russian, by some part, or has it remained American from the start?
No, Reddit is not Russian. It is a mainly American social news aggregation on which users can post, discuss and rate content. Several years after Reddit was developed, a Russian Pikabu was created. This Reddit analog has become much more used by Russians. Still, there are popular subreddits devoted to discussions about Russia, especially after the events of recent history.
If you want to know more about Reddit’s ownership, as well as the history of this platform in Russia, feel free to check out the text below.
No, Reddit Is Not Russian, but It Isn’t Completely American Either
Founded in 2005 by Aaron Swartz, Alexis Ohanian, and Steve Huffman, Reddit is now globally known and used as a social news website. Reddit’s majority shareholder is American media company Advance Publications.
However, note that there are other stakeholders in the picture. In 2014, famous entrepreneurs and entertainers started investing in the company (Sam Altman, Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Jered Leto, and Snoop Dogg). In 2019, the Chinese company Tencent became another one of the significant Reddit investors, and it now has 5% of shares.
Pikabu – The Russian Version of Reddit
As opposed to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries, Reddit is not that popular in Russia. However, in 2009 Maxim Khryashchev created Pikabu, a platform very similar to the American Reddit.
With more than 12 million users, It’s now one of the most visited Russian websites, broadcasting informative and entertaining content. However, it’s also known for highly aggressive posts and comments.
Although there were censorship and banning issues in the past, one of the biggest controversies revolving around Pikabu is the data leak that occurred at the beginning of 2022. The unencrypted personal information of 4 million users was leaked, which was later confirmed by Pikabu’s administrators.
The Ongoing Conflict Between Reddit Admins and Russia
Not only does Russia not own this platform, but Russia’s representatives and Reddit haven’t always seen eye to eye. For example, in 2015, Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal service responsible for media monitoring and censoring, decided that conversations about psychedelic drugs were promoted on this platform. It has resulted in banning this site from the whole country. However, shortly after, the platform was unblocked.
Another controversy occurred after the 2018 elections when around a hundred Reddit accounts were identified as Russian bots connected to the Russian IRA (Internet Research Agency). These accounts were allegedly used to manipulate America’s voters and held a significant impact on the Reddit community.
Invasion of Ukraine and Russian Subreddits
The Ukrainian conflict has become one of this platform’s most popular discussion topics. A subreddit named r/AskARussian has witnessed significantly more activity since February 2022. This community is created to enable connection with Russian people and their culture.
However, since the beginning of the invasion, the point of interest has transferred to current conflict and sanctions. Non-Russian citizens have been joining this Reddit community in large numbers, either to share their solidarity with Russian people or, more frequently, attack and blame them for the ongoing war.
On the other hand, subreddits r/Russia and r/RussiaPolitics are guaranteed due to the spread of misinformation. In fact, this has brought search restrictions to these forums. Additionally, a warning message will appear for all who want to visit this Reddit forum. However, since it’s not entirely banned, users can still see the content by clicking through this warning.
Is Reddit as Open and Inclusive as It Once Was?
Some users have been disappointed in the level of censorship they’ve experienced in recent years, claiming that Reddit’s moving away from its freedom of speech roots – and these bans may stand as proof of that. On the other hand, many people tend to mix the concept of freedom of speech with the right to post any kind of content, even one that can harm others.
Research shows that Reddit still has some of the best content moderation practices among other major platforms, even with the recent changes. When it comes to cultural competence, explainability, integrity, transparency, integration, and human rights integration, note that they are fully implemented with this platform.
Reddit’s Content Policy
Although the moderators must enforce community rules, some rules are platform-wide and enforced by admins. Inciting violence, promoting hate, content manipulation, harassment, or posting illegal content is prohibited on this platform.
If a post is breaking some of Reddit’s rules, admins can:
- Ask a Redditor to stop posting that kind of content,
- Remove the content,
- Temporarily suspend the Redditor’s account,
- Add the restriction to the account.
Keep in mind that admins are allowed to add restrictions to the whole community by quarantining it or adding an NSFW tag. Aside from the already mentioned Russian subreddits, probably the most well-known case of guaranteeing (and later banning) is with the r/The_Donald subreddit. This pro-Tramp subreddit was blocked and banned due to its abusive and toxic content, harassment, and targeting.
Why Is the Question of Who Owns Reddit Important?
Reddit is a social media platform that allows users to post content and vote on other users’ posts. Originally, Reddit’s policy was not to get directly involved in the content moderation of specific subreddits. However, censorship has evidently increased in the last few years.
So, if some content is being censored, it’s essential to know who owns the platform – it will directly impact the type of content that is allowed on the site. From the examples above, however, it’s more than obvious that Russia has no part in owning Reddit.