TECH

Reddit defends against accusations of ad fraud and Trump censorship

File photo.

File photo.  (REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

The influential social media site Reddit.com, which has hundreds of millions of users, came under fresh fire today for allegedly discriminating against users of the pro-Trump section of the site called /r/The_Donald. Critics accused Reddit of under-reporting how many "subscribers" the section has while telling advertisers that the section has a much higher number of users. 

But Reddit tells Fox News that the flap was caused by a simple labelling error that Reddit made when it rolled out a new system for advertisers Thursday.

Reddit.com has a live counter available to the public that says the pro-Trump section of the site has 385,000 subscribers. Reddit users closely follow such counters to gauge popularity. But between Thursday and Friday afternoon, if a user went to Reddit's advertising platform, ads.reddit.com, and expressed interest in advertising in the Trump subreddit, the user was shown a dramatically higher number of subscribers: more than 6 million.

The discrepancy was first reported by the blog Right Side Politics. Fox News confirmed the two differing Reddit counts.

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Users of /r/The_Donald say this is just the latest example of Reddit discriminating against them. Reddit has taken other censorship measures in the past and blocks most posts from the pro-Trump section of the site from appearing on the "front page" of Reddit.

A post in the Trump section Friday afternoon reads: "385,000 subscribers? TRY 6 MILLION... STOP LYING TO US."

Users also said that Reddit could be guilty of advertising fraud if it were to turn out that the 385,000 number were correct and the 6 million number were wrong.

Fox News asked Reddit about the discrepancy. 

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Reddit Director of Communications Anna Soellner told Fox News that the high advertising counts were caused by a labelling error in a new service: 

"When we released the new ads self-serve product yesterday, the ad interface said "Subscribers" in the targeting dropdown list. However, the actual number represented here was not "Subscribers" but was actually "Daily Unique Visitors" to the subreddit," she said. 

In other words, the advertising page was meant to say that the Trump section averaged 6 million unique visitors to the page each day; not 6 million subscribers.  

She said the error has been partly fixed as of Friday afternoon. 

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"We have just pushed out a change to rename this number ‘Daily Impressions’ and will modify the numbers shown in the dropdown to show ‘Daily Impressions’." 

"Daily Impressions" is the number of advertisement views available. Soellner also linked to additional details about the difference between the three different terms. 

As of 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, the Reddit advertisers page said the Trump section had 28 million "subscribers" -- but according to Soellner that should really (and soon will) read 28 million "daily impressions."

By 3:30 p.m. Friday, the page had been fixed to show 28 million "daily impressions." It no longer shows 6 million subscribers.

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Prior to the fix, other sections of the site also had apparent discrepancies between the advertising count and the normal count, but not nearly as big as for the Trump section. Reddit's politics section, for example, was listed as having 6.3 million subscribers to advertisers and 3.3 million to the general public.  

Other sections actually had advertising counts that are lower than the public counts: The Reddit Science section was shown to advertisers as having 10 million users while the general public saw 16 million.