Investigator's Guide to Reddit

Investigator's Guide to Reddit - Reddit logo under magnifying glass.

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’s message boards are divided into individual forums called “subreddits” where users discuss a particular theme or topic. While Reddit might not have as many active users as other social media platforms, the information shared by users can offer investigators valuable insight into their interests.

How does Reddit work?

Reddit uses a voting system to curate user-submitted content. Users “upvote” content which they find interesting and “downvote” that which they don’t. Some of the most popular subreddits include content related to humor, current events, photographs, and politics. “Karma” is the number of “upvotes” and “downvotes” that a post, comment, or user has received (in this last category, values are aggregated by all of their posts and comments).

Similar to following someone on Facebook, users are able to subscribe to subreddits. This ensures that so they always see updates from this forum on their front page. Users can be “friends” with other accounts, which allows you to follow their submissions. Users can also private message other users and tag their screen name in a comment.

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Reddit Terminology

  • Subreddit – Subreddits are topic-oriented forums within Reddit and are colloquially referred to as a “sub.”
  • Mods / Moderators – These are individuals assigned to enforcing policies on subreddits.
  • Upvote / Downvote – This voting system is used to curate interesting 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 a press conference but online.
  • 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 – Gold is a special feature which users can purchase to show how much they appreciate a post. Users who receive gold have access to the “lounge,” a general subreddit only available to users who have been “gilded.” Gold cost $4 via PayPal.

Who uses Reddit?

Reddit averages 14 million unique visits per month. Of that number, the majority of the visitors are young men.

Distribution of Reddit User by Age

Investigator's Guide to Reddit - Graph illustrating the distribution of Reddit users by age.
Demographic information courtesy of Pew Research Center.

What information do users share on Reddit?

Reddit users share a variety of information, but the majority of what investigators can discover pertains to the subject’s lifestyle and interests.

Subreddits vary wildly in the level of their activity, degree and form of moderation, popularity, and conceptual scope. For example, the subreddit /r/news has 12.5 million subscribers and 10 moderators who primarily focus on keeping conversation relevant and respectful. On the other hand, a more niche sub like /r/Parkinsons (devoted to Parkinson’s disease discussion) has only 2 moderators and 879 subscribers, and the moderators focus on niche concerns like sharing unscientific treatments or conjecture about what public figures have Parkinson’s disease. These two examples show how different two subreddits can be.

The majority of subreddits are accessible by the public. The exception to this rule tends to be forums which discuss interests which are offensive or controversial; these tend to be quarantined and inaccessible to non-users.

How does one search Reddit?

Compared to other social media platforms, locating a user’s account on Reddit can be difficult. 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.

Should you be investigating Reddit?

Like Pinterest, Reddit is a good resource for building a subject’s personality profile. It provides great insight into their interests. However, because it is more difficult to positively identify a user’s account, our analysts recommend prioritizing your efforts on more popular platforms. Should you find your investigation lead you to Reddit, we strongly suggest consulting our social media experts.

Let us know how investigating Reddit fits into your discovery process in the comments section below. Want more information about SMI’s social media investigation or preservation products? Please contact us or call (888) 299-9921 and one of our representatives will gladly assist you.

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