Reddit: Popular, Profitable and Breaking the law?

For internet junkies, looking to be entertained by a constant stream of hilarious photos, interesting facts, and anything odd under the sun, Reddit is the site. The site not only caters to the desire of learning trivial knowledge but it allows its readers to vote and comment on the content. The site, launched in 2005 by two fresh college graduates, immediately garnered mass appeal by the cyber community and now reaches near three billion page views a month. In 2006 the company was bought by Advance Publications and, as of 2011, operates as an independent subsidiary. This trade would resemble how most successful web companies are bought and sold, however, when a publisher such as Advance Publications (also publisher of travel magazine Conde Nast) absorbs a user-generated site like Reddit implications such as copyright and internet regulation arise.

The significance of Reddit in culture and politics is undeniable when Barack Obama becomes a subscriber. In the latest presidential election, Obama used Reddit as a platform to create a dialogue between young internet users and the Obama administration. Of course Obama’s presence on Reddit was only an innovative campaigning strategy, but a government leader using a site like Reddit is a telling sign of a future where governance and internet publication go hand-in-hand, whether amicably or the opposite.

Currently publishers, such as Advanced Publications, scoop up popular websites to gain a foothold on internet popularity and eventually profit from it. However, Reddit users, under the cloak of anonymity, have free reign to use the full spectrum of free speech, from useful commenting and democratic discourse to hate speech, violation of copyright, and invasion of privacy.

Should publishers of internet websites that invite user submissions be wary of laws made to prohibit speech and limit  information? Or, should these publications follow in the vein of internet culture, where content is an anarchic free-for-all and anything can be published? Should the government allow some leeway for internet publishing, or does that diminish the ethics of journalism?

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