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The front page of the internet” is being gamed by vested interests. This is a story about how easy - and cheap - it is to buy your way onto the worlds most popular and influential forum.
In 2013 two Redditors David Fredrick and Aidan King whod never met before decided to set up a subreddit dedicated to encouraging an unlikely presidential candidate to run for office: Bernie Sanders.
Sanders had previously said that he wasnt going to run for President unless there was a significant groundswell of support. The type of groundswell a political candidate can only get if they have serious name recognition from years of high-profile insipid grandstanding.
The problem was that Sanders decades of lectern-thumping wasnt remotely vacuous and therefore not high-profile.
But King and Fredrick had a different ideas.They guessed that Sanders brand of socialist populism would play very well with one often ignored demographic: Redditors. They set about promoting the Sanders For President subreddit in other threads and by mid-April 2015 it had swelled to over 6000 members.
This was apparently enough for Senator Sanders who announced his candidacy at the end of April changing the democratic race - and party - for the foreseeable future.
This is the power of Reddit.
The system of upvotes and downvotes act as a check and balance against obvious subversion. Bad content gets voted down good content gets voted up.
Except it isnt.
Reddits upvote system can easily be gamed with some bitcoin and a few useful contacts. I know this because my colleague Phil Harper and I successfully managed to place two made-up stories on to influential subreddits /r/UnitedKingdom and /r/Video which have a combined total of over 13 million subscribers (12 million at the time of our investigation) both of which reached the number one and number two spots. How? With fake accounts and fake upvotes we bought for under $200.
You would be forgiven for thinking that gaming Reddit like this requires cunning guile and a deep understanding of the complex and intimidating dark web. In reality it took us less than a few hours to track down websites offering fake accounts and a little bit of extra work to track down someone selling thousands of upvotes.
Our first lead was a tip off about Reddit Secrets” - a website that sells Reddit accounts. It was professional looking; the accounts were listed in order of karma (a points system that reflects how much good content that Redditor has posted) and cost with the actual usernames blanked out. Handing over cash to a faceless website didnt seem like a good move we wanted to talk to someone first but getting in contact with someone at Reddit Secrets proved to be difficult.

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