Reddit Bots Are Hunting Down Racists, One Post at a Time

Maria J. Danford

It begun out as a bit of a joke. In June 2018, a user on a now-banned subreddit created a tongue-in-cheek recommendation about developing a bot —an automatic account that could connect with out racists by going via their submit history and tallying up the selection of racial slurs they had used.


This story at first appeared on WIRED Uk.

Another person nearly right away went absent and crafted it. Within a several hrs of observing the submit, a Reddit user termed ‘ogkushmonster’ had begun operating on a bot to serve accurately that perform. “I had just finished an introductory programming course at university and thought it would be a reasonably simple bot to make to improve my new coding expertise and that it would be amusing to in fact make it,” says the 23-year-previous from Michigan who does not want to be named.

It was termed ‘nwordcountbot’—and it could be summoned by any Reddit user to offer a depend of the selection of times any other user had used the racial slur. All they had to do was tag the bot, alongside with the username they preferred to check in a remark, and the bot would immediately reply with the details. The bot is a person of a selection of equipment that Reddit people have been using to fight again against hate speech on-line.

“Getting the bot up and running was rather simple and only took a several hrs. Strengthening the bot so that it could react to opinions nearly right away, retain a database of all the people it investigated and opinions it replied to, and run on a server for months at a time without crashing took considerably far more studying and energy,” says the creator.

It was a big strike. The bot exploded in acceptance, quickly breaking out over and above its far more fringe subreddits into bigger ones like r/young adults. By May perhaps 2020, it had been summoned far more than a hundred ninety,000 times, and counted million takes advantage of of the n-word from a hundred and twenty,000 diverse people. One user, now banned, had used it far more than three hundred,000 times. “I was surprised that it received so common. I assume that some men and women considered it as a beneficial device for combating racism, though other men and women thought it was amusing to see how considerably they could spam the n word,” says ogkushmonster. “There was a little something for everybody.”

The bot had a reasonably quick everyday living. 3 months back, citing the value of the servers demanded to run the bot, its creator decided to shut it down. “I in no way anticipated the bot to get so common but I’m happy that you all favored it so considerably, from the chapos [customers of r/ChapoTrapHouse, a now-banned subreddit connected with a still left-wing podcast] working with it to cancel men and women to the edgy young adults competing to see who could say the most n words,” they commented on a Reddit submit asserting the bot’s departure.

But there was evidently a demand from customers for the services. And so, in June 2020, a new bot—wordscounterbot appeared as its “officially endorsed” successor. The new bot has been summoned nearly 1,000 times in three months—sometimes to make a stage for the duration of arguments about policing in America or politics, but often just as a joke. “People usually use it when they see another person say a little something “suspicious,” says its creator, alashow. “There are also imbeciles that spam opinions the n words by commenting on spam posts to get a high ‘nwordcountbot score’.”

As properly as bots, redditors have also crafted browser extensions that can help them determine suspicious people. The ‘masstagger’ extension for Chrome and Firefox was made two decades back by a user termed ‘morpen’—building on a preceding edition that had been all around considering the fact that 2013. “At some stage, I observed myself baited into an argument only to uncover out that my opponent was an energetic member of several (literal) Nazi subs,” they generate on their website, describing the genesis of the extension, which applies a colored tag to customers of specific ‘hate subreddits’ who may possibly be engaged in so-termed ‘concern trolling.’ This is wherever people deliberately troll other subreddits by pretending to agree with their stage of view, but then participating in negative faith and subtly undermining facets of their arguments.

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