By Jay McGregor | 20 February 2017
FORBES — Reddit is being regularly manipulated by large financial services companies with fake accounts and fake upvotes via seemingly ordinary internet marketing agencies.
“I work with a number of accounts on Reddit that we can use to change the conversation. And make it a bit more positive.”
This was the startling admission of a professional-looking marketing agency that, in a phone call with me, openly bragged about manipulating conversations on Reddit.
This wasn’t a one-off, nor was it the result of weeks of plumbing the depths of the dark web looking for shilling services. Finding this agency, and several others, took less than a few hours of basic Googling.
The business of Internet shilling – posing as a genuine forum user but being in the employ of a corporation to promote their work – is booming. And it has been for a long time. From fake Amazon reviews to the U.S Army astroturfing social media, comment manipulation is as old as the very concept of internet forums.
Fake comments and fake conversations being hard to spot, especially when they’re made by specialist agencies, makes shilling big business.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on Reddit. Being the world’s 22nd most popular website and the U.S.’ 7th makes it a popular target because of the hundreds of millions of eyeballs it attracts every month. […]