The Fearless Girl bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal stands across from the New York Stock Exchange (AFP / Timothy A. Clary)

Reddit did not shutter forum behind GameStop stock spike

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Social media posts claim that discussion platform Reddit shut down the “wallstreetbets” forum responsible for driving a spike in the stock prices of companies including GameStop. But the forum is still active, and a Reddit representative said it was not closed but rather set to private by its moderators to manage a surge in traffic.

“They shut down that Stocks subreddit in 72 hours. But let them plan the January 6th insurrection on that same app in broad daylight? I got that right??,” a January 27, 2021 tweet said. It was retweeted more than 100,000 times.

A screenshot of a tweet taken on February 1, 2021

Screenshots of the tweet circulated on Facebook here, here and here and on Instagram here.

Ordinary retail investors organized on the “wallstreetbets” forum to boost the stock prices of struggling companies such as video game store GameStop and movie theater chain AMC. This in turn caused major losses for big-name Wall Street firms that had bet the shares would fall in value.

In the early days of February, GameStop had lost about 70 percent of its value after soaring more than 400 percent the previous week.

But contrary to the claim in the social media posts, the forum is still up and running, as illustrated below, and as of February 3 had more than eight million members, called “degenerates”. 

A screenshot of the forum “wallstreetbets” taken on February 3, 2021

The tweet that said wallstreetbets had been closed came on the same day that the subreddit temporarily went private, with moderators citing “technical difficulties” resulting from “the newfound interest in WSB.”

A Reddit representative told AFP by email: “We did not shut down the community. The community's moderators had set the community to private to manage the influx of traffic. All communities and users on Reddit must abide by our site-wide rules.”

Asked about the action taken on Reddit, Yvette Wohn, associate professor of informatics at New Jersey Institute of Technology, told AFP that “every subreddit has its own ‘rules’ or guidelines in terms of how they want to run their community. Some places don’t care about what things are posted and some have stricter guidelines.” Subreddits are forums dedicated to specific topics on Reddit.

“The fact that WSB took some time to figure out what they want and that moderators released a statement on the reason shows that they really care about their community and take their responsibility very seriously,” she added.

The claim posted on Twitter also referred to the January 6 riot at the US Capitol by supporters of then-president Donald Trump, which had been discussed ahead of time on various online platforms.

A Reddit spokeswoman could not immediately be reached to respond to that aspect of the claim but the platform has previously taken action against Trump supporters.

Reddit “quarantined” a pro-Trump forum on the site in June 2020 for repeatedly violating its rules about promoting violence. This led users to turn elsewhere. The platform also banned another subreddit for supporters of the Republican president on January 8, 2021, two days after the storming of the Capitol, for violating its “rules against inciting violence.”