Reddit boots hundreds of accounts linked to Russian trolls

The news discussion site says it banned 944 accounts suspected of links to Russian propaganda efforts across social media.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
2 min read

Reddit said Tuesday that it has identified and removed several hundred accounts suspected of being connected to Russia's alleged campaign to spread disinformation on social media.

The news discussion site said in its annual transparency report that it removed 944 accounts it suspects were created by the Internet Research Agency, a group linked to Russian propaganda efforts across social media. The report comes after Reddit CEO Steve Huffman revealed in March that his company was cooperating with a congressional investigation into whether Reddit was a source of misinformation during the 2016 US election campaign.

Huffman said the vast majority of Russian-linked accounts banned had little to no clout on the network, according to the report, which noted that 70 percent had a zero rating on Reddit's karma scale -- how the site ranks the value of users' contributions. He also noted that several hundred accounts were banned before the 2016 election through routine Trust and Safety reviews.

However, seven of the banned accounts were described as having "significant" karma scores, suggesting they were well-regarded by Reddit users.

Reddit's investigation came in response to reports Reddit users unknowingly shared content that originally came from Russian trolls, in much the same way the trolls tapped popular websites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to sow seeds of discord among Americans during the election. In indictments handed down in February, US special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department accused Internet Research Agency employees of creating troll accounts and using bots to stage arguments and fuel political unrest during the 2016 campaign.

And though Russian trolls placed election-related ads on Facebook and Twitter, that wasn't the case with Reddit, Huffman said.

"I also want to be very clear that none of the 944 users placed any ads on Reddit," he said. "We also did not detect any effective use of these accounts to engage in vote manipulation."

As part of its transparency effort, Reddit posted a link to a list all 944 accounts it deleted due to suspected links to Russian propaganda efforts. The accounts will eventually be removed from Reddit after an unspecified public review period.

The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.

Special Reports: CNET's in-depth features in one place.