I have been a reader of Reddit for many years but hadn’t until late last year posted anything.
Some time went by and I noticed that my account page appeared strangely when I was logged out. At times it showed a 404 page but other times it rendered a page where my username was replaced with the string ‘undefined’. I figured it was a bug in the rendering of the page, and kept using the account, everything else seemed fine. I could log in, read threads and post to subreddits.
I continued to occasionally post links to my newsletter, and mostly it was fine though I did receive one other take down notice. I eventually emailed Reddit support several times to ask them about the account, but only ever received automated replies that didn’t solve the problem. It really felt like I was being disappeared, because at this point I started to suspect that none of my posts were being seen by other users.
I posted on Indie Hackers to ask for advice. I also posted to some help subreddits. It was a landslide diagnosis: I had been shadow banned for posting too many links to my own content. In the process received quite a lot of criticism about how I was posting on Reddit, but also on other sites like Indie Hackers and Hacker News.
It was quite a blow, I had been sharing my newsletter that I spend many hours every week preparing, and just received criticism in return.
This wasn’t helped by the fact that the support team wouldn’t answer my emails aside from auto replies. I tried posting to a special subreddit that tells you if your account is banned, but it just didn’t reply anything. People seemed to think this was because I was banned.
In a separate Indue Hackers thread I had received some advice that Reddit was a good place to look for jobs, but I still couldn’t post. Eventually I decided to post publicly on Twitter and try to get the attention of the Reddit support team. The post never showed up in my timeline, and the only way I found to get it to show-up was to pin it to my Twitter main page. I ended up creating a Twitter thread to chronicle the things I had tried.
I never received any replies from the support team. Meanwhile my Twitter profile now had a strange Twitter thread attached to it that every job prospect was now reading. Not the best kind of look when you are looking for work.
Looking at the timeline of events, it still wasn’t obvious to me that my account was banned, because it would have had to be banned since before I ever posted anything, which doesn’t make any sense.
At some stage I found another Reddit page where you can request that your banned account is re-instated, so I went ahead and filled out the form. After submitting it, the page showed a popup saying that the account was NOT banned.
I emailed support yet again and this time got a human reply. A few emails later they informed me that my account had been caught in a spam filter, and that the issue had been fixed. I never received any notice from them that this had happened. The account finally started working many months after the issue first appeared.
Shortly after I posted to a jobs subreddit, my post was immediately removed and I was given conflicting information. I posted again on Indie Hackers to ask for advice. Basically one message said ask the mods, and another said that if I asked the mods I could be banned. I opted to just not use Reddit for job search, and I’ve mostly stopped posting to other subreddits.
It was a really horrible and drawn out situation that affected my life in many ways, where I was tried, judged, convicted and hung out to dry by the community, where there was no recourse, no procedures to restore my account. It’s really tarnished how I view community and the web. I’ve since had account issues with several other sites, including Freelancer.com, Coinbase.com, big named sites where you would expect account issues not to happen.
There were a few folks on Indie Hackers that helped and talked to me, interacted on some of my other posts, giving me good advice about my blog, and I’m great-full for their support during very difficult times.
I’m not out of the woods yet, but I will at least be removing the pinned thread from my Twitter main page later today.
Here’s hoping 2021 starts to get a bit better, even though the rainy season started a few days ago! There’s nothing better than rain thunder and lightning to remind yourself that you are still alive :)
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