Reddit’s most loyal fans have thrown up a Facebook page and a Change.org petition to stop the rise of 9GAG, a humor site that critics say is running on recycled content and padded user counts while its community members spread hate across the Internet. A representative from the activist group Stop 9gag reached out with the details.
“Basically the situation is that 9gag bots trawl Reddit and 4chan and post their trending content, and once posted they inflate the like count,” said Luke Martinez via email. “Their admins use bots that aggregate and post stolen content, and modify the like counts on posts.”
Martinez provided a list of bots that administrators use to scrape the images. “If you…open one of the bot links, you’ll see how all those posts have inflated post counts in comparison to normal users’ accounts,” he wrote, “and none of their posts have low like counts.”
He points to images like this one, which was scraped from another site and posted on 9GAG without attribution. Especially irksome is the watermark that 9gag uses to brand the photos as they roam the social Web.
Even 9gag’s policy on originality was unoriginal, he said, lifting copy directly from Reddit’s instructions on proper “Reddiquette.” (Said copy has since been changed.)
To 9gag’s credit, users can report stolen content by sending a “Notification of Claimed Infringement” via email or by mailing a letter to 9gag’s headquarters. This kind of policy is standard among other image-based sites like Pinterest.
The biggest problem appears to be 9gag’s attitude. At Y Combinator’s S12 Demo Day, TechCrunch quoted a 9gag founder who said, “No studio in LA can be as timely… with creating this kind of funny content.” Redditors took issue with the use of the word “creating” to describe the activity on a meme aggregator that derives much of its content from other sources.
They also disagreed with the 9gag founder’s suggestion that the meme site was growing faster than its predecessor. 9gag reportedly had 65 million unique visitors in July, beating Reddit’s count of 39.7 million. (Bots aside, many Redditors have described 9gag’s visitors as a bunch of 12-year-olds who are too young to know that the content they’re seeing isn’t fresh.)
The group’s petition on Change.org (the fourth of its kind) takes it one step further, saying that 9GAG should be shut down for hateful user comments that promote everything from racism and homophobia to child porn. One example: “When a 15 year old girl named ‘Amanda Cummings’ committed suicide in December 2011, users from 9gag were quick to get to her Facebook memorial page to post nasty and offensive comments about her death, causing much grief to her family and friends,” the petition reads. “Trolls from 9gag also claimed to be from other websites, however the IP addresses were known to post on 9gag and visit frequently.”
This claim, as well as another report that the man who killed several moviegoers at a Batman screening in Aurora, CO had used 9GAG to issue a warning, was shot down by meme sleuth Whitney Phillips, who said that both were likely orchestrated by members of 4chan’s anti-9gag movement, Operation 9gag.
A counter-movement to discredit 9GAG’s critics also exists, but it’s made up. Humor site Super Official News posted a facetious report that 9GAG was now suing Reddit for $50 million in damages for setting up fake accounts and planting offensive material on 9GAG, where Redditors would then vote it up. “It’s not a pro 9gag story,” a representative from the site confirmed. “Reddit and 4chan for life dawg!”
So far, the real battle exists on the Internet, not the courtroom. And what a long fight it’s been.
9GAG could not be reached for comment.
UPDATE: A representative from Super Official News wrote in with the following message: “The Superofficialnews story was not ‘A counter-movement to discredit 9GAG’s critics’… I’m not sure what it is exactly… but it’s not a pro 9gag story. Reddit and 4chan for life dawg!” The referenced paragraph has been changed.
Image by Wth via Shutterstock.