The fight to protect net neutrality is coming to a head, and Reddit may have played a bigger part than expected. New data released Tuesday shows users accessing the “front page of the internet” — which has over a billion visitors a month — showed their support for current American internet legislation in a massive way.
“Not only did we find the activity to be an authentic, truly grassroots phenomenon, but it represented some of the most fervent organic activity we have ever seen on the front page in all of Reddit’s 12-year history,” the company said in a blog post on Tuesday.
This was not top-down action imposed by administrators and moderators. This was community-driven activism, as revealed in the organic voting patterns. As an example, during the Super Bowl and the McGregor-Mayweather fight, two of the biggest events of the year, around 20 percent of the votes on posts on the front page went to relevant content. Net neutrality, on the other hand, accounted for a staggering 70 percent of votes on the front page during the two major days of action.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will vote on repealing protections that ensure equal access to the internet for Americans. Whether or not the five-person committee decides to keep the current regulations in place, it’s clear that a large number of voters will have seen Reddit’s pro-neutrality content over the two days of action. Statista shows that six percent of American internet users accessed Reddit in February, and the site received 1.58 billion visits in September.
The first day of action, on November 21, covered the front page with links to Battle for the Net, informing users of the coming vote on December 14. The success of these posts offer a fascinating insight into how some posts sink or swim on their way to the front page. A post at 2:50 a.m. Eastern — 7:50 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on the graph below — on the Minecraft subreddit was taken down, while another one in the “PC Master Race” subreddit took six hours to reach the top. Viral content ain’t easy, as shown by the momentum in these graphs.
The second day of action saw similar spurts. On December 1, users uploaded images of members of Congress that took donations from telecom companies, in a bid to expose the money at play in the vote on net neutrality. These posts had limited success, until a sudden surge at around noon UTC time.
The most upvoted image from that day? A picture of a dog dressed up in a suit.
Even on days of action, it seems Reddit can’t resist a playful joke.