Reddit bans 944 accounts with suspected links to Russian troll farm

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WATCH A look inside a Russian 'troll factory'

Reddit has banned 944 accounts, suspected to be of Russian origin, for spreading propaganda and misinformation on its platform.

In a blog post, the company announced Tuesday that these accounts have suspicious characteristics that suggest they originate from the Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA).

The IRA is the Russian “troll farm” based in St. Petersburg that the FBI and the Robert Mueller investigation charges with spreading misinformation and propaganda aimed at influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, most of the banned accounts gained little traction on Reddit.

Each Reddit user has a karma score that goes up and down based on how popular that user’s posts are on the platform. If a post is up-voted to the top of a Reddit page, the user's post will gain karma points. However, if fellow users downvote the post, it loses a karma point. Seventy percent (662) of the suspicious accounts had a zero karma score, meaning their posts would not have been seen by many Reddit users.

PHOTO: The CEO of Reddit Steve Huffman delivers remarks on Redesigning Reddit during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena, Nov. 08, 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal. Horacio Villalobos/Corbis/Getty Images
The CEO of Reddit Steve Huffman delivers remarks on "Redesigning Reddit" during the third day of Web Summit in Altice Arena, Nov. 08, 2017, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Here's a breakdown of the accounts and their karma points on the platform:

-- 70 percent (662) had zero karma
-- 1 percent (8) had negative karma
-- 22 percent (203) had 1 to 999 karma
-- 6 percent (58) had 1,000 to 9,999 karma
-- 1 percent (13) had a karma score of 10,000+

Reddit also points out that of the remaining 30 percent (282) -- the more active accounts of the bunch -- more than half of them (145) were banned prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, some of the accounts were posting actively -- as recently as April 9. In total, only seven highly influential accounts, with a karma score over 10,000, went undetected prior to Reddit’s recent investigation in Russian exploitation of the platform.

All 944 accounts have been blocked from posting or interacting but are still visible to allow investigators to evaluate the posts.

The most interactive account with a karma score of 99,493 spread multiple pieces of anti-Hillary Clinton content, including posts calling for Clinton to be imprisoned and an image depicting Trump as a knight in gold-plated armor impaling Clinton’s head with his sword. Many of the active accounts made racist posts and posted pro-gun messages but there were also some banned accounts that posted mostly Black Lives Matter material.

PHOTO: A view of the four-story building known as the troll factory in St. Petersburg, Russia, Feb. 17, 2018.Naira Davlashyan/AP, FILE
A view of the four-story building known as the "troll factory" in St. Petersburg, Russia, Feb. 17, 2018.

In a post last month, Reddit said that it didn’t find any Russian propaganda ads but as a precaution, it has banned all advertising from Russia for the time being. The company says that while it has banned the accounts directly posting suspicious material, it has seen many instances of ordinary users unwittingly sharing Russian propaganda on the platform.

"The biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense, and this is a burden we all bear," the post stated.

This innocent amplification of misinformation is similar to behavior found on other social networks like Twitter and Facebook. But Reddit admitted in Tuesday's blog post that it has a lot of room to improve in this area and promises to make changes.

“Over the past several months, our teams have evaluated our site-wide protections against fraud and abuse to see where we can make those improvements,” the post said.

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