The Investigator’s Guide to Social Media introduces popular social media platforms and how information shared on these platforms can benefit investigators. In this installment, we’ll be discussing why one should be investigating Reddit.
What is Reddit?
Reddit is currently one of the world’s largest online forums. The site is divided into forums devoted to specific themes or topics, each of which is labeled a “subreddit.” Reddit may have smaller numbers of active users than giants such as Facebook, but the information shared by users offers valuable insight into their interests.
How does Reddit work?
Reddit is driven by user-submitted content, which other users “upvote” to indicate a favorable reception, and “downvote” to express disapproval. Some of the most popular subreddits include content related to humor, current events, photographs, and politics.
“Karma” is the total number of “upvotes” and “downvotes” a post or comment receives. Users also receive “karma” as a result of aggregated values of all of their posts and comments on the site. Users can subscribe to specific subreddits, which ensures that posts from these topics appear on their front pages. Users can be “friends” with other users’ accounts, allowing them to follow their submissions. Private messages and comment “tags” to others’ screen names are also allowed.
- Subreddit – Subreddits are topic-oriented forums within Reddit and are colloquially referred to as a “sub.”
- Mods / Moderators – Individuals assigned to enforcing policies on subreddits.
- Upvote / Downvote – The voting system used to curate content on Reddit.
- Meta – Reference to other content indigenous to Reddit.
- /r/All – This subreddit combines the most popular posts and subreddits. Sometimes users of a certain subreddit will complain when that subreddit becomes part of /r/all, noting that more casual users will begin posting content and ostensibly lower the quality of discussion on the forum.
- /r/IAmA – This popular subreddit is where a user may post “AMAs” or “AMAAs” (Ask Me Anything and Ask Me Almost/Absolutely Anything). AMAs are open to all Reddit users and use the site’s comment system for both questions and answers; it is similar to an online press conference.
- Front Page – The front page is similar to /r/All in that it displays the most popular posts and subreddits. However, smaller and more specific, and certain subreddits are not “pinned” to it.
- Post Karma / Comment Karma – The number of upvotes or downvotes a post or comment has been given.
- Gold / Gilding – Reddit allows users to award “coins” to other users or posts that they find exceptionally informative or helpful. There are three levels of coins: silver, gold, and platinum. Users who receive gold or platinum awards obtain access to the “lounge,” a general subreddit only available to users who have been “gilded.” Users may also purchase 700 coins each to upgrade their accounts to Platinum level, which is ad-free. A purchase of 500 coins – enough for one Gold Level award, costs $1.99, with additional coins available to purchase for higher prices.
Who uses Reddit?
As of January 2020, Reddit had about 52 million daily active users, more than 100,000 communities, and 50 billion monthly page views . As of 2016, males made up 71% of all Reddit users, with 59% between 18 and 29 years of age. Liberals make up 47% of Reddit users, versus only 13% of users who identify as conservative.
Distribution of Reddit User by Age
What is shared on Reddit?
Reddit users share various information, but most investigators can discover information about the subject’s lifestyle and interests. Reddit has a reputation for being a haven for trolls, which is a somewhat unfair assessment. In reality, subreddits vary widely in activity levels, popularity, conceptual scope, and especially in the form and degree of moderation. Investigators should keep this fact in mind and gauge information obtained from specific subreddits accordingly.
For example, the subreddit /r/news has 23.1 million members and ten moderators who keep a relatively tight rein on the forum, focusing on keeping the conversation relevant and respectful. By contrast, a more niche sub like /r/Parkinsons (devoted to Parkinson’s disease discussion) has only 5.7 thousand members and two moderators – and a much looser focus, including content on unscientific treatments or conjecture about what public figures have Parkinson’s disease.
How does one search Reddit?
The majority of subreddits are accessible by the public. The exception to this rule tends to be forums that discuss offensive or controversial interests; these tend to be quarantined and inaccessible to non-users. However, gaining access to information from individual profiles can be a challenge. Typically, investigators will need to identify a matching username on another one of the subject’s social media profiles in order to find their Reddit account.
Is Reddit useful for investigations?
Like Pinterest, Reddit is a good resource for building a subject’s personality profile, especially for young subjects. It provides great insight into their interests. However, our analysts recommend prioritizing your efforts on more popular platforms due to the difficulty in accessing individual accounts. Should you find your investigation leads you to Reddit, we strongly suggest consulting our social media experts.