Reddit is an online discussion forum of over 800,000 communities, known as “sub” reddits. Each subreddit has its own set of rules and volunteer moderators who enforce these rules.
How does it work? Subreddits are populated by user-submitted links. A registered user posts a link (e.g., self-written post, image or link to another website) to a subreddit. Other users can vote this link up or down; the more ‘up votes’, the more popular the link. Users can also comment on the link. Comments are subject to the voting system too.
According to Alexa, Reddit is the 13th most popular website in the country (beat out by sites like Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter).
The site gained widespread popularity when President Barack Obama posted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) in August 2012. It has also been successfully used to foster discussions with local communities (e.g., Kirk LaPointe posted an AMA when he was running for mayor in Vancouver).
Government of Canada Presence on Reddit
Legal Concerns for an Online Consultation
The information contained in this section is in draft. These are actual concerns from the perspective of a lawyer. Choose the ones that relate to your department and situation and mitigate them how you see fit.
Reddit User Agreement defined as: a legal contract between reddit and user; by using reddit, you agree to the terms of the agreement
Moderation/control of the discussion
- Reddit retains the right to remove any user content from reddit for violations of the user agreement or any other reason reddit chooses (this includes the removal/suspension of a user’s access to reddit; the termination of the user’s account; and the removal of any of the user’s content from reddit)
- Moderating on reddit is unofficial and voluntary; reddit reserves the right to revoke the position at any time.
- Moderators must remove content that violates the user agreement
- If Government staff is moderating and is required to remove content that violates the user agreement, would this mean that we are editing the record?
- Additionally, users may edit or delete their own content on reddit – do we want parties to have the ability to remove content from the public record?
- Commission reproduction for the purposes of our record/transcript: reddit grants the right to access reddit content in the manner described in the agreement.
- Reddit User Agreement quote, “You may not otherwise make unauthorized commercial use of, reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform, or publicly display reddit content, except as permitted by the doctrine of fair uses or as authorized in writing by us”
- Can email reddit if interested in licensing reddit content
- By submitting user content to reddit, a user grants a “royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, unrestricted, worldwide licence to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform, or publicly display” user content
- Privacy Act/PIPPEDA issue?
- Users agree to the terms of the agreement by using reddit, so the Government would be subjecting Canadians to accept these terms if they want to participate in this online forum.
- Will there be sufficient warning to users that this information will be publicly available and form part of the public record of the proceeding?
- We would not have control over the use of the information collected by reddit
- Reddit’s ability to share user information: they retain the right to collect specific personal information from users.
- the sharing info with advertisers/ad partners/consultants/vendors/ other service providers who may need access to such information to carry out work for reddit
- the sharing of info in response to an RFI if reddit believes disclosure is in accordance with or required by any applicable law, regulation, legal process, or governmental request
- Third party partners/advertisers that partner with reddit may collect user info sent from their computer such as IP address, and cookies. Reddit does not provide actual account details to these ad partners
- Reddit’s user agreement also states that any claim or dispute between a user and reddit related to this agreement shall be governed by the laws of the State of California (without respect to its conflict of laws provisions). A user agrees to submit to the personal jurisdiction and venue of the state and federal court located in San Francisco County, California.
- Unclear what the real benefit is of using reddit over our own forum:
- Our site is also free and bilingual.
- With respect to the issue of people not being comfortable commenting through traditional methods of online threaded discussion, it is fair to suggest that some Canadians may not feel comfortable using a less traditional forum like reddit either
- It may not necessarily be user-friendly for all of Canada’s demographics
- Example: there is a 4 page explanation on how to properly comment on reddit
- Reddit also requires you to create an account like the Commission’s online forum
- Reddit is predominantly technologically savvy, young adults, and mostly male
Considerations and Best Practices on Reddit
- Use the Right Language: Spend time both on Reddit as a whole and in the subreddit you're interested in to understand their lexicon. For example, Reddit uses the acronym tl;dr ubiquitously to mean "too long; didn't read" but if you go into /r/Fitness, you would be expected to know what OHP refers to (overhead press). Use their language. You should continue to be professional but also relaxed. Wholesome jokes are fine. Jokes that poke fun at your department are fine. Racist, sexist etc. type jokes are not fine. Memes and gifs are good but don't use them if you don't know how.
- Know your Audience: Typically, Reddit is predominantly made up of younger (20-35) male, technologically minded individuals. If this is your target audience, that plays in your favour. However, this is not always true. For example, /r/makeupaddiction is predominantly made up of young women (16-30) and some trans individuals. Be sure you know your audience before you jump in.
- Know the Drama: No community exists without drama. You can only know about it if you have spent significant time in the subreddit but you may be able to ask seasoned members (regular posters or moderators) about existing drama. Use your judgement on whether or not you need to respond. For example, /r/Canada has a rival subreddit, /r/metacanada. When the CRTC and Justice Canada posted their announcements thread in /r/Canada, both departments had backlash from Redditors in /r/metacanada (example drama post for CRTC 1; example drama post for CRTC 2; example post for Justice Canada). In the case of the CRTC, their social media person responded to all questions because the poster had posted the email, phone number and fax numbers for people to complain to the CRTC directly. In the case of Justice Canada, their social media person did not respond. Both were valid responses.
- Know how to Format your Post and Comments: Instructions are available on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/wiki/ref/faq/formatting_guide The conventions for formatting a post for an AMA or a consultation are slightly different. Your best bet is to find a similar consultation or AMA and follow the same format.
- Involve the Moderators: The process for verification and posting a thread will be different depending on the subreddit so your best bet is to contact the moderators either by messaging the Mod Mail account or messaging one of the moderators directly. They will guide you.
- Reddit is NOT Accessible so have another Method of Interaction: For a consultation, make sure you have another, fully accessible way for people to submit their feedback. For an AMA, consider allowing people to submit questions prior to the AMA and answer them in the thread; when the AMA is over, post the transcript to your website and notify people via email that they can read the answer to their question on your website (if you did answer it). It's not perfect but it's a good workaround.
- Reddit is not Great in French: There is a way for people to switch the language of Reddit (go to Preferences > Set Interface Language: français [fr]). It's not great but it works. There is currently no way to link directly to the French version of Reddit.
- Setup your Profile with the Beta Version of Reddit: The beta version of your profile allows you to see the number of followers your account has (along with some analytics) and let's you add FIP images so that your account appears more official. This is a permanent change to your profile.
Free to Use Proposals
- Differential Pricing Proposal, CRTC [docx file] (please feel free to use this, word-for-word, in full)
- AMA Proposal for CRTC Chairman about Net Neutrality, CRTC (please feel free to use this, word-for-word, in full)
Case Study: CRTC's Public Engagement on Reddit
In September 2016, the CRTC ran a consultation on Reddit.
Written from perspective of Natasha Zabchuk.
Pitching the Idea (May 10, 2016)
- I pitched the idea to my supervisor. She supported it and asked for a business proposal.
- Before starting the proposal, I messaged the moderators of /r/Canada from my personal account to ensure they were on board. They had two major questions:
- "What about the Privacy Act?" When you sign up with Reddit, you agree to their Terms of Service. The CRTC wasn't personally collecting any personal information - only public domain usernames and publicly accessible comments (more on this below).
- "What about ATIP?" Reddit is public domain and therefore, not subject to ATIP - you don't provide public records through ATIP requests (although you may provide links to them).
Posting the Legal Notice (May 18, 2016)
- The CRTC released the Notice of Consultation, announcing that we were holding a consultation on differential pricing.
Approvals from Communications (June 2016)
- The proposal was approved in this order: web supervisor --> web manager --> Director of Web, Creative, and Client Services && Director of Sector Services, Public Relations and Outreach --> Executive Director of Communications
- Note: the proposal went to the Director of Web (...) first because she's my Director. She shared it with the Director of Sector (...) and the Executive Director who approved the idea on condition that the clients for whom the consultation was for, and the Commissioners approved it.
Approvals from Client (Telecommunications and Lawyers) (July 2016)
- Outreach and I submitted the proposal to the clients in a meeting. This was an opportunity to discuss the proposal that they had receive prior to the meeting. It was initially pitched as a cheaper, faster way to do Public Opinion Research – the feedback was mixed on a working level and manager level. This gave them a chance to ask questions about Reddit and consider legal implications.
- We let the idea simmer. The clients submitted feedback. I made the requested changes and resubmitted it. There was still some uneasy feelings around it - this is natural and normal for any new endeavour. However, from my understanding, there is trust between the Communications and Telecommunications teams so this did not impact approvals.
- Both Executive Directors of Communications and Telecommunications approved, pending the approval of the Chairman and Commissioners.
Approvals from Chairman and Commissioners (Sep 12, 2016)
- I don't have details about who talked to whom when. I assume the Executive Directors pitched the idea to the Chairman.
- There was a large meeting (partially video conference) with the Commissioners, Executive Directors, Chairman, myself and the project leads for the file on the Communications and Telecommunications side. The idea had been briefly explained to them beforehand and this was their opportunity to ask questions. They asked similar questions that the lawyers asked. The Executive Director of Communications provided answers and I filled in when I needed to. No serious concerns so they were all happy and said ‘yes’.
Sept 19, 2016: We issued an amendment to our Notice of Consultation, telling the public that we were going to use Reddit.
Going on Reddit
- Sept 20, 2016: We posted an announcement thread on Reddit
- Sept 26, 2016: We ran the consultation
- Sept 30, 2016: We closed the consultation
- Oct 3, 2016: We published a “thank you” to the community and asked for feedback with a Google Form
- Oct 13, 2016: We published the record of the thread on our website
- April 20, 2016: We published a follow-up on reddit. This is when we made the decision on differential pricing so I wanted to make sure we went back to the community, said thank you (again) and told them how they impacted public policy. This thread was gilded (meaning, someone sent reddit $5 for my post to get a little gold medal next to it). This part wasn’t in the original proposal but was approved with zero difficulty.
- Presently/On-Going: I respond regularly to questions that I get through Direct Message. I also proactively respond to threads that have to do with the CRTC. It’s important to keep that relationship with the community. If the issue is touchy, I respond immediately with something to the effect of, “Let me check with the experts” and I email the distribution list we have that connects all of the social media and PR people. I’ll normally get back a standard government response and I plain language it (meaning, I write it for the reddit audience). I respond in the language that people ask me questions. If the issue is non-sensitive, I respond immediately if I have the answer or I consult with the Client Services team and respond with their input.
- Top Sites by Country, Canada. Accessed: 2016-June-01. http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/CA