G4 Busts Themselves For Manipulating Reddit
Earlier today, Redditeer Deimorz posted a rather scathing report on the manipulation of Reddit scores by Gamepro, VGChartz and G4. Natrually there’s always the danger on a site like Reddit that otherwise crummy articles can have their numbers ramped up by friends of the producer. Worse is the idea that legitimate press might be doing it too. Explains Deimorz:
Last night, an absolutely terrible article about a 22-in-1 3DS accessory kit somehow shot immediately onto the gaming frontpage, due to suddenly getting about 10 upvotes shortly after being submitted. At almost the same time, the exact same thing happened with two other GamePro articles, a video card review and a horrible “top games” list.
After calling them out for spamming and having several fake accounts rally together against me (including a brand new one created just to help out!), I decided to start unraveling this and see just how major of an astroturfing operation they had going here.
To start with, here’s a list of the accounts involved, at a minimum. There may be more that are less obvious, like l001100, who doesn’t submit or comment, but has only come out a couple of times to defend GamePro’s honor.
Deimorz’ list is pretty extensive and damning. Particularly this part:
Most of these were found by looking through the submission lists for the three domains: GamePro / G4TV / GamrFeed. You’ll see the same names an awful lot. The spam for each domain started at a different time, but it was always initiated by MasterOfHyrule. GamePro was started first, about 11 months ago. G4TV came next, about 9 months ago. And GamrFeed most recently, about 4 months ago.
That’s double plus ungood, first because it’s shady dealings, second because now GamePro, G4TV and GamrFeed get to endure some public humiliation and brand tarnishment. That’s the last thing they need, especially G4, still smarting after the embarassing ratings of the 2010 VGAs. As it turns out, G4 might be a little smarter than we thought because they got right out in front of this thing like grown-ups. They caught wind of this potential black eye and less than three hours later posted the following response on Reddit:
Today we logged on to Reddit and saw the story about G4TV, GamePro and VGChartz from Deimorz at the top of the Gaming sub-reddit. Obviously, this was troubling to us, so we decided to explain our involvement in what happened.
Awhile back we discovered a poweruser on Digg submitting and digging our content, which we thought was great. So we started a relationship with him where he’d submit a story here and there and we’d send him random games (usually duplicate review copies). This relationship continued on Reddit as it grew in popularity. This was good for us, as we all liked Reddit, but didn’t feel like our content had much exposure on the site. After some time we began to pay him a small amount of money instead of games.
However, we didn’t know the full extent of how he was achieving success on Reddit. We had no idea that he had 20 accounts under his control. We also didn’t know that he was using the other accounts to comment on his own submissions. That’s on us 100%, we should have paid more attention to his methods.
Now, even with this going on, if you check our domain, in the last 14 days, there were only 8 submissions to the Gaming sub-Reddit (although some look they may have been deleted by the mods). It’s probably more than what would have happened organically, but it’s not exactly heavy spam.
In the end, what we want is for Reddit users to be aware of G4tv.com’s content, and know that G4tv.com is a good gaming website with quality reviews, interesting features, and intelligent writers. It’s why you may have seen us using Reddit’s self-service ad system a few times, including today. We have already told this user to never submit G4 content again, and promise that this won’t happen in the future.
TL;DR – We’re owning up, we were wrong to do this, and we hope you forgive us.
That’s one hell of a mea culpa1. I’m inclined to believe them, but of course I’m looking forward to seeing if their Digg poweruser ends up issuing a statement of his own. If that happens we’ll pass the popcorn and let you know.
1) Latin for “My bad”.