How Reddit Became the Internet's Vigilante Voltron

From Karen Klein to SOPA, the social news site Reddit can now muster tremendous financial, promotional, and political influence.

We all heard about it. On the afternoon of June 19, 68 year-old Karen Klien, a school district worker in upstate New York, was on board School Bus #784 as a monitor when four middle schoolers began taunting her. They called her fat, dumb, sweaty and ugly. They made fun of her family—her son committed suicide 10 years ago—and laughed as she cried.

Across the seat from her, one of the middle schoolers recorded the incident on his cellphone and later posted it on YouTube.

Rallying around that video, a group of anonymous strangers organized online, brought the incident to national attention, and raised an astounding $600,000 to give Klein an early retirement. The middle schoolers, for their part, faced disciplinary action from school administrators and local law enforcement, as well as the ire of a nation.

On the evening of March 17, a Virginia man stopped at a red light was rear-ended in a hit-and-run. Markings along the man’s bumper revealed fragments of a license plate number, but nothing conclusive. The same online community that came to Karen Klien’s defense used advanced photo processing to reveal the license plate number, leading authorities to the perpetrator.

This group of samaritans are the users of, a popular social news site, and these acts of altruism are hardly rare for the community. Reddit operates on user-submitted content, and while most "Redditors" post standard internet fare—memes, funny images and viral videos—occasionally a submission will highlight an injustice that’s gone unnoticed or unsolved. That's when Redditors mobilize, donning the virtual buckskin and six-shooter of a digital Shane.

Taken individually, Reddit users are sitting in office park cubicles, working retail, waiting tables, job hunting, studying in a dorm, or otherwise out of sight. Together though, they comprise an incredibly potent force—35 million strong, most under the age of 35, and digitally savvy. The sheer immensity of the community gives it a collective knowledge and expertise as broad as it is deep. When Reddit rallies around a cause it's like a magnanimous, vigilante Voltron of the internet.

Reddit’s most recent campaign struck close to home. To fight the internet censorship bills SOPA and PIPA, Redditors lead an offensive that snowballed into a mainstream movement with participants including Wikipedia, Google, WIRED, and us here at GOOD. The ensuing publicity brought the issue to the top of Facebook feeds—and the fore of public consciousness—and the bills quickly imploded, with supporters and co-sponsors fleeing the wreckage. Similar bills in Canada and Europe have met the same fate.

Not all of Reddit’s causes are so grand. They can be as mundane as a Redditor asking for legal or personal advice, for feedback on an original song, or help organizing a flash mob for a friend’s birthday. And while the internet’s anonymity infects many online communities with an inane rancor (read the comments on any popular YouTube video), Redditors often look after their own. A Redditor employed as a flight attendant sent another Redditor—recently dumped by his fiance—enough frequent flier miles to take a vacation in Europe. The two had never met, and likely never will.

The crushing success of the internet censorship offensive was proof of Reddit’s political power, and the site shows no sign of slowing down. In the last two years, it’s jumped from a global Alexa rank of 300 to just shy of 100. As a news site, its broad and connected user base can dictate digital news cycles—what appears on the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and Gawker today broke on Reddit yesterday. Even the fleet-footed Twitter can find itself playing second fiddle. As a forum for activism, Reddit's multitudes can muster tremendous financial, promotional, and political influence.

So exactly how did Reddit become the de facto headquarters of internet vigilantism? The website and the hacker group Anonymous both successfully crusade in more mischievous—and sometimes dangerous or illegal—ways. Kickstarter is a purpose-built fundraising platform, and other news sites have larger reach. But Reddit, with its broad spectrum of users, wider appeal, and active community, provides a saner community for the everyday person.

When competitor Digg awkwardly fell on its sword, Reddit emerged as a leader in social news, truly establishing itself as the "front page of the internet." By aggregating the silly, funny, and inane with the serious and concerning, it created an appealing cocktail to the fickle generation raised in the age of the internet. Perhaps more importantly, it truly is a community, and we humans want to be part of a community, even if it’s virtual.

In the last 6 months, mentions of Reddit have more frequently made their way onto teleprompters, with news anchors air-quoting a name they’d never heard of. By the end of the year, those anchors could be referencing Reddit with the same familiarity as they do Facebook or Twitter.

Reddit, like all online media, runs the risk of bloating up and burning out. Even now, veteran Redditors recall the "glory days" and lament how much the site—and specifically its mix of content—has taken a turn for the worse. But judged solely on its activism Reddit has never been stronger, and what it does with its growing might is a topic of great debate amongst users. It is, after all, up to them.

via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

If you are totally ready to move on from Donald Trump, you're not alone. According to a report last April from the Wason Center National Survey of 2020 Voters, "President Trump will be the least popular president to run for reelection in the history of polling."

Yes, you read that right, "history of polling."

Keep Reading Show less
via Around the NFL / Twitter

After three years on the sidelines, Colin Kapernick will be working out for multiple NFL teams on Saturday, November 16 at the Atlanta Falcons facility.

The former 49er quarterback who inflamed the culture wars by peacefully protesting against social injustice during the national anthem made the announcement on Twitter Tuesday.

Kaepernick is scheduled for a 15-minute on-field workout and an interview that will be recorded and sent to all 32 teams. The Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys, and Detroit Lions are expected to have representatives in attendance.

RELATED: Joe Namath Says Colin Kaepernick And Eric Reid Should Be Playing In The NFL

"We like our quarterback situation right now," Miami head coach, Brian Flores said. "We're going to do our due diligence."

NFL Insider Steve Wyche believes that the workout is the NFL's response to multiple teams inquiring about the 32-year-old quarterback. A league-wide workout would help to mitigate any potential political backlash that any one team may face for making an overture to the controversial figure.

Kapernick is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) so any team could have reached out to him. But it's believed that the interested teams are considering him for next season.

RELATED: Video of an Oakland train employee saving a man's life is so insane, it looks like CGI

Earlier this year, Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid reached a financial settlement with the league in a joint collusion complaint. The players alleged that the league conspired to keep them out after they began kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

Before the 2019 season, Kaepernick posted a video of himself working out on twitter to show he was in great physical condition and ready to play.

Kaepnick took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012 and the NFC Championship game in 2013.

He has the 23rd-highest career passer rating in NFL history, the second-best interception rate, and the ninth-most rushing yards per game of any quarterback ever. In 2016, his career to a sharp dive and he won only of 11 games as a starter.


In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

Keep Reading Show less

Between Alexa, Siri, and Google, artificial intelligence is quickly changing us and the way we live. We no longer have to get up to turn on the lights or set the thermostat, we can find the fastest route to work with a click, and, most importantly, tag our friends in pictures. But interacting with the world isn't the only thing AI is making easier – now we can use it save the world, too.

Keep Reading Show less
Good News