When reddit was young, there were only a few rules: no dox, and no breaking the law.
It was a relief. Digg had just been through the same thing as reddit is now, and all the former users fled to it. It was started by free speech advocates such as Aaron Swartz and, surprisingly to us now, /u/spez
. But soon afterwards, a group of admins, former admins, mods, and power users (some of which were also the power users who took over Digg) formed and decided they didn't like the way reddit was run: they wanted it to be a controlled, moderated space like most other sites. They would get their way.
Context: this inital group of power users contained such "reddit celebrities" as /u/davidreiss666
, and the most famous of them all, /u/karmanaut
Everything they've been looking to accomplish over the years can be traced back to a post by a former admin on their profile sub: /r/raldi/comments/3djkz4/we_call_for_reddit_to_stop_providing_a_hosted/
This post was followed and well-received by all of those with power on reddit. Former admins, the majority of the moderators of the largest subreddits (who controlled the notorious "default" subs picked out by the admins), and most of the notable "power users" (which reddit had at the time, and there was a lot of overlap between them and the powermods. Think karmawhores but with comments, text posts, participation, discussion, and popularity instead of link posts.) all jumped on the bandwagon here. This post can be said to be the beginning of the /r/defaultmods cabal, or network of powerful mods, power users, and their friends. They all came together to execute this plan: reddit would eventually be entirely within the palm of their hands and completely under their control.
This group began to use their first tactics to take over subs that they didn't like. They would get users banned, harass the mods, use their mod powers to supress the parts of reddit they didn't like, and use their popularity to drive the site into fulfilling their wishes. At this point most of the users still were not on board with this idea. They had been on reddit when it was still for real, and said that if anyone wanted a lot of moderation and quality control they should go to any other website. The admins, too, were not particularly fond of this yet. But the cabal still had their tactics. They would make false accusations and frame users and subs they didn't like, stalking and brigading them until they disappeared. They broke reddit's few rules all the time, but because of their popularity the admins, fearing outcries, unfairly cut them more slack than everyone else and let them get away with it for the most part. This was their first mistake--it would soon transform into giving those users, hostile to reddit, special privileges, and then downright listening to them. Reddit began to use shadowbans on real users and remove non-spam for the first time after this. (Fun fact: originally there was no "remove" button, only "spam", because reddit did not intend to remove anything else!)
Once these mods began to recieve special treatment from the admins, they could do whatever they wanted. When the admins still ran the default subs, they considered only this group of power users to appoint as moderators. This led to their monopoly on all the large subs of reddit. Since they controlled all the large subs, they controlled what content people saw, and thus which other subs could have exposure. They unsurprisingly allowed only their own subs to gain any visibility. The rest of the users and the admins were annoyed by this behavior, but alternative subs still existed even if smaller. This was the beginning of reddit's death.
Power user /u/andrewsmith1986
explains in this article how this group ran the largest subreddits on the site and his experience with it. It's a very interesting read and it pretty much matches our suspicions: https://www.dailydot.com/society/andrewsmith1986-reddit-power-user-dictatorship/
When people first join Reddit, the first thing I tell them to do is to unsubscribe from the default subreddits. Find what you like. The site has everything. Local subreddits, fingernail polish subreddits! Reddit is an open place with a wide array of topics and while I disagree with many of the topics, I do believe that they have their own "place" there.
Community members should have a say in what goes on. Major changes should always be put to a vote. But Reddit is not a democracy. It may try to sell itself like it is, especially in the larger communities, but that’s bullshit. It’s a dictatorship.
It’s like a totem pole. When you’re a mod of a subreddit, and you bring on another mod, you’re now above him. You’re on top. So for communities with like 100 mods, the guys on the very bottom have absolutely no say in anything. And if you disagree with the guys at the top, they’ll just remove you. They can do that.
He also said this (the article paraphrased):
Many moderators view their positions as status symbols (he said pointing to the fact that many default and popular subreddits feature the same moderators). You can’t choose to be a moderator of a subreddit someone else created—you have to be invited. That creates the Reddit version of an old boy’s club, where the insiders and well-connected keep control of the biggest communities—and there’s nothing the rest of the site can do about it.
As time went on, they became more organized and started groups where they coordinated their efforts. They talked about how stupid everyone else was, how much greater they were, and their plans to silence their opposition. They began talking on social media sites such as snoonet, IIRC, twitter, and facebook. This is when all the secret chats sprang up. They also promoted what they wanted in public subreddits such as /r/ShitRedditSays (now known as AHS) and TMoR, but without their connections and special privileges. They also took over meta subs such as /r/TheoryOfReddit in order to manipulate the site. One of their best tactics was attracting negative media attention to reddit for not listening to them, and/or displeasing their advertisers which make reddit money.
But the point when the cabal fully materialized was the creation of a members-only group called "defaultmods". As the name suggests, it is a private club which only admins and moderators of default subreddits are allowed to see and participate in. Kind of like /r/CenturyClub and /r/modtalk, but only for moderators of default subs (subs chosen by admins to be the only ones seen by logged out users and the default subscriptions for new users), the highest status in the cabal. The mods of all the default subs were mostly the same, and they controlled all of the large non-defaults as well. This group, however, the admins participated in. Having actual conversation with the admins of the site was a privilege that only these top mods enjoyed, and you can imagine that they had enormous impact on the site. The subreddit /r/defaultmods and the defaultmods slack are both divisions of this group, and the only one the admins participate in or care about. The admins also promoted subs of cabal members by giving them free ads and manipulating their visibility to place them at the top of lists, above subs made by normal users.
Of course they denied all of this, claiming that defaultmods was a dead sub where they discuss boring spam management and mod stuff. But everyone knew better. The cabal HATED leaks from that group, banned any leakers, even got one of them administratively banned, and refused to allow outsiders any information about it. But if it was all boring stuff, and they had noting to hide, then why would they be so concerned about leaks?
One day they got their wish: the reddit CEO was being replaced with Ellen Pao, who intended to "clean the site up" and ban distasteful and offensive material (RED FLAG!!! Reddit said: "We stand for free speech. This means we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it."). Exactly what the powermods wanted, especially with the upcoming 2016 election and the wake of the cabal's new worst enemy, /r/The_Donald.
They also leveled up on banning their most wanted users. /u/POTATO_IN_MY_ANUS
, a well-known power user but one who had rough relations with the cabal, was not only shadowbanned, but also IP banned, had new accounts banned as well, and was entirely locked out of their account with fake "wrong password" errors. This is something that, while relatively common nowadays, was extremely rare back then. Later, the same thing happened to the top mod of /r/niggers, /u/ChuckSpears
. The cabal cheered for the admins while the rest of the site descended into disappointment, and, eventually, complete and utter chaos.
With the help of the new admin team, they were now getting entire subreddits banned, to the great dismay of the userbase. Probably the first ban sparing /r/jailbait was /r/niggers. Now it was a racist sub and full of prejuced idiots, even worse than the_donald, but reddit was created to be tolerant. In no way was it even close to being mainstream, it was an isolated sub that sometimes created drama but since most of the site was populated by normal users, it couldn't be successful. This was the whole point of reddit. But these power users wanted it banned. They got it banned fairly easily after some time, and without much pushback from the userbase, because it's kind of hard to argue in defense of something without black and white thinkers accusing you of being a supporter, and then having to deal with countless accusations of it and distrust from everyone. And the cabal made sure to do this. That started to shut a lot of people up.
The next major ban was /r/fatpeoplehate, and everyone except the mod cabal was angry about it. They stressed the importance of how once the first step is taken to moderate the site, it will keep expanding and going just one more step in this direction forever. They knew it from their experience at Digg, and now we too know just how right they were.
However, as time progressed, under the Pao administration, many of the former admins who had supported reddit's intended purpose were let go, and more cabal-sympathetic admins were hired. Users were being shadowbanned like crazy, and some of the admins, including the highest-up ones, joined the cabal's secret social media chats. They started working together, and now the admins were on board with this plan. It wasn't only powertripping mods who happened to control the biggest parts of reddit anymore; it was now the admins too, who could shut down alternatives and allow the influence of the cabal mods to have truly sitewide ramifications. As close friends of the admins, they were practically admins themselves. They had now hijacked reddit's core infastructure, and there was no stopping them.
Subreddit banwaves came like crazy. Users were constantly shadowbanned and not made aware of it. A lot of original reddit's userbase was gone, and had either left or was banned. Banwaves started to follow a pattern. The subs that the cabal mods complained about, the subs that /r/ShitRedditSays brigaded, and the subs that soon got banned were all the same. There was clearly a link between all of this. SRS also included former admins, and possibly alts of current admins and powermods as well.
Then, shortly after /u/KamensGhost
was chucked, a user called /u/metaredditcancer
explained the situation involving SRS and the admins-powermod connections. It went viral on /r/AskReddit, and a sub called /r/metaredditcancer was created about the topic. Of course, it was soon banned, and /u/metaredditcancer
got chucked. /r/subredditcancer was created in response and worked successfully appeased the admins. The admins probably created the subreddit ban evasion rule in response to wishing they could use it as the reason to ban SRC as well.
At one point though, the admins ruffled the cabal mods' feathers when they fired a popular admin. The reaction across the site was ENORMOUS, both users and mods protesting it. The mods privated all the big subs, including the defaults, and the admins lost TONS of money in the process. This was big, and it showed just how much power the cabal mods really had. They were like an internet mafia, controlling everyone, even the admins who were supposedly above them. The admins had been blackmailed, and from that point on have been forced to do everything the cabal mods command them to. Note that many of the current cabal mods were active by this point.
A leak from /r/defaultmods regarding this incident, known as "blackout 2015" showed that the top admins were active there and worked with them, despite ignoring everyone else. This proved that the cabal mods' insistance that the admins were not a part of their group was a lie: /r/defaultmods_leaks/comments/cbpx6b/ukn0thing_july_03_2015_at_062902_am_we_hear_you/ https://external-preview.redd.it/fgHataEL2cGtxWsX_kkFtqOaY9RKBO_TENFp-xWfu1g.png?width=640&crop=smart&auto=webp&s=6ce3f113cd09df20974ee473351e1809c4d18592
Many users begged a few default mods with some sense still in them to release info to the rest of reddit, but they could not because they would be banned from defaultmods, removed as a mod, and probably shadowbanned by the admins as well. Again, the cabal HATED leaks from that group, banned any leakers, even got one of them administratively banned, and refused to allow outsiders any information about it. But if it was all boring stuff, and they had noting to hide as they claim, then why would they be so concerned about leaks?
Soon after, the most famous free-speech advocate on reddit, go1dfish, the author of many uncensorship tools such as snew and the one who had the idea for public mod logs, and a mod at SRC, got chucked as well. He came back a few times with new accounts, but the admins kept tracking him down more agressively than they had ever done to anyone before. This was insane. He was not known to have broken any rules, and was banned purely because the clique of admins and powermods didn't like him. After that, he gave up on reddit for a while, handed the public mod logs bots to another users, and did not return to reddit until 2-3 years later.
One day, Ellen Pao had left and /u/spez
came back to reddit to be the CEO. People were happy because they believed that /u/spez
, being one of the founders, would return the site to its original glory. Unfortunately, they were wrong. /u/spez
had changed quite a bit since his days working with Aaron Swartz and setting up the site. He was now on-board with the ideas of the Pao administration, which has largely remained in power under his reign.
Then, defaultmods was exposed even further after "spezgiving" when /u/spez
edited comments by people in The_Donald changing "fuck spez" to "fuck [random mod of /r/the_donald]". He said he was sorry in an announcement post, and whether he was or not is left up to debate. However, it was soon discovered that he discussed the incident much more in-depth in the defaultmods group, specifically the defaultmods slack channel, where he, other top admins, and the default mods could see it but no one else. He gave them much more information than he did everyone else. They also circlejerked about how funny it was and that what he did was good (despite him telling everyone else he was sorry). Then they talked about how they were going to get it banned in the future, exactly the way everyone knew they had been organizing banwaves together. Here is a link to the discussion (which yet again proves admin-powermod coordination in defaultmods, and that big things actually go on in there despite their claims to the contrary): http://archive.is/9hqCl
They still try to deny it lol. But it's obvious, the admins and powermods DO INDEED collude in defaultmods to discuss administrative decisions with eachother, while leaving everyone else in the dark. Here is another example: In this one, they are talking about how to ban /r/altright: https://i.redd.it/n6o0e35sn5gy.png (Archive: http://archive.is/D0N5Q)
Note that everyone else besides other admins is left completely out of this, but the default mods get to make the decisions with the admins. Why do they have so much say but the admins ignore everyone else? /u/andrewsmith1986
A few years and many banwaves later, /r/The_Cabal was created to showcase these connections. While /r/subredditcancer already existed, /r/The_Cabal was specifically about defaultmods and the connections between this group of powermods. Initially it attracted a lot of attention from the cabal. They trolled and brigaded us all the time (and I was pissed so we trolled them back with shadowbans; very immature of us), and despite only having around 50 subscribers at the time, we attracted their attention more than /r/subredditcancer. A few times some mods accidentally or intenionally exposed that they talked about us all the time in their defaultmods slack channels. Once they organized a scheme to get a troll to infiltrate the mod team, and then have the admins ban the top mod for some BS reason so they could then gain control over the sub (TOTALLY new tactic lol). They trashed the place and banned tons of users, removed our mods, invited tons of cabal mods with full perms, and turned it into a sub mocking itself. Eventually the admins gave it back for some reason and it was restored, but these shenanigans happen all the time. Ironically, it ended up that the cabal mods exposed themselves big time in trying to destroy the sub, and thus helped the sub's purpose.
Around the same time, /r/ShitRedditSays began to die, and was later replaced by /r/AgainstHateSubreddits. AHS serves the same purpose, but is MUCH more subtle about its intentions. While SRS had huge banners crossing out free speech, AHS makes an appearance as fighting hate and bigotry. This new way of broadcasting their idea proved to be successful, and many reddit users got on board with it. However, AHS is a hate sub itself. It attacks other hate subs...by hating them and trying to censor them, just like every other hate sub. "But it's justified because we're the ones doing it!". It's tribalism. There's the AHS tribe, there's The_Donald tribe, and a few others, and each one thinks they have the moral high ground, are better than everyone else, and deserves to WIN AND DEFEAT THEIR RIVALS. AHS is no different.
Interestingly, the definition of "bigotry" states:
intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.
Are they right about this being true of The_Donald and the hate subs they constantly complain about (that are actually hate subs, not just ones they don't like)? Yes. But it is also true of themselves. They are claiming to fight bigotry, but literally try to fight it by using bigotry!
Next exhibit, /r/TheBanout2018. The cabal mods created this sub with their huge ban list on their sidebar (which included such subs as /r/subredditcancer, /r/WatchRedditDie). For once they broadcasted their ban plans to the public. Not only did they want those subs banned, they were going to global permanently ban all participants of those subs from every subreddit they moderated (read: almost every sub on the site) as well. Of course they claimed it was only a joke, but the admins were actually banning the items on their list. It got so insane that /r/subredditcancer had to shut down for a few months to avoid being banned (this is when most users migrated from there to WRD). Around this time, the cabal also purposely directed former users of banned subs into WRD so they would break rules there and they could ban it. We got flooded with idiots from alt-right subs and t_d. They didn't ban the users of banned subs yet because they first wanted to concentrate them all into WRD and then do it (which is why they only just started banning the users of banned subs). Eventually, the cabal got sick of the drama form TB2018 and had the admins ban the sub and make everyone forget about the incident. However, its ban list still determined the future, even several banwaves later, even now. /r/CringeAnarchy and /r/WatchPeopleDie were on the list for the next banwave. Guess what subs were gone in the next banwave? Then, their next phase: now. Of course, it got a kick start when /r/The_Donald was quarantined. Guess what subs were also listed to be banned in that phase? WRD and SRC. Guess which subs are spiraling down into bansville now? Yep. They tried to do it this summer actually, but there was way too much pushback so they held off. They spent 3/4 of a year planning how they would make this move. It was so strange, seeing the admins in complete silence and inactivity for so long. No bans, no announcements, no policy updates. No infiltrations or raids. It was completely unlike them, and we knew something was up. This had never happened before. They were waiting for something, planning something. Something BIG. And we knew what it was. The ban on WRD. Once they ban it, as per the ban evasion rule, they can successfully completely silence all criticism and opposition to them on the entire site, as the whole topic of moderator corruption would be banned. They will finally achieve this, and do whatever they want without push back, since they can no longer be called out. They wished they had it when SRC popped up, but now they will have it. They have been using their classic tactics to get us banned, I'm sure of it. Combing our subs for reasons to take actions, removing random stuff, removing the same thing multiple times (often stuff that was already removed by mods) to inflate the number of actions they take and claim the mods aren't doing their jobs. Now raids, and there are even stories of admins approving violating content and claiming the mods did it to get a sub banned.
Also interesting: I've noticed that banwaves usually happen about once every summer, spring, and fall, but rarely during the winter months, if ever. This makes sense now that I've found the leak about banning /r/altright, consider what reddit admin sodypop said in the defaultmods slack: https://i.redd.it/n6o0e35sn5gy.png
At one point, we also realized no one but the cabal could create subs and have them actually grow. In order to get exposure, you need to have it listed on their default subs. You can't get their help obviously, in fact if you try they will just rip off your sub and advertise it everywhere. They also censor mentions of subs that aren't their own if they get too popular. That wasn't the only thing. I also noticed that the admins manipulated the metrics so that powermod subs always shows up first, even if they were much less popular. Crossposts from non-powermod subreddits had much more trouble rising, half the upvotes wouldn't even count; you would see your total karma score increase but it wouldn't on the post (and no, in multiple instances it couldnt've come from somewhere else), thus burying it in the sub to prevent exposure of the non-powermod sub. Searching for subreddits using the search function would return a ton of powermod subs first, even if they were much smaller, or only vaguely (or not at all) related to the topic/keyword, or both. That definitely did not make any sense. Even mods who knew nothing about the cabal were noticing this stuff. Yet the cabal mods say if you don't like their subs to go make your own. And then they don't let you do that. The final straw was when reddit's new "top growing communities" feature came out. The only subs at the top were powermod subs, as expected. All other subs were buried at the very bottom, ranking in the several thousands, even if they were growing much more than a powermod sub in the top 50. There is no way this is genuine.
To make matters worse, there are also categories of subs, which are chosen by admins. Of course only the few powermod subs for those topics are chosen to be in those categories, and nothing else can even possibly make it into there. Plus, some subs, such as WRD, a rapidly growing sub, are completely banned from being in the ranks at all.
There is also a subreddit directory, a huge list of subreddits on the site, but it is not full: it only contains the subs run by powermods, and everything else is missing:
And now, as the cabal and the admins plan to ban WRD, they are now starting to not only ban subs, but also all the subscribers of them, and anyone who has ever participated in them.
Recently they began their first attacks on our subs. They first banned all the mods of /r/RedditHasCancer, mysteriously all at the same time and without reason so they could ban the sub for being unmoderated. They forgot a mod, who informed us about the situation. Of course, that mod was soon suspended as well. Then they suspended all the mods of /r/YallCantBehave immediately afterwards, and possibly had a troll spam yiff in it.
We are next. They want us GONE so they can ban /r/The_Donald before the next election. It's almost 1 million subscribers, it's WAY too big for them to just ban it. They would have too much pushback and even bad press they would have to deal with, so they have to effectively silence all their opposition first. Which is why they want us banned so badly. It's sad that we have to go this way, but with the power in the hands of better than thou power users, I can't say I'm shocked that this is how it's going down.
/r/defaultmods and their associated chats are the very heart of the cabal, and they killed reddit. They got some admins on their side, blackmailed the rest, and now have full reign of the site. They're like the reddit mafia. It's exactly what happened to Digg...
...only this time, there is nowhere to go from here.
As the lifetime of WRD and Co. comes to a close, and as reddit gasps its last breaths, I thought it would nice to make this one of our closing messages. A tribute to reddit, in remembrance of its struggles, and what it was. For when we get banned, I bid you all farewell and wish you good luck in advance. I can't say when it will happen, but I know it will be soon. It was fun while it lasted.
😅 yaar wo reddit pe ip ban ho gaya. Fir idhar bhi kuch khaas karne ko nahin hai. So am not online much these days