Reddit moderators do $3.4 million in unpaid work every year

The volunteers who maintain the content standard on Reddit’s forums put in 466 hours of work a day, a labor that would cost 2.8% of the company’s revenue.


June 24, 2022

Moderators strive to maintain standards on Reddit’s forums

Chris Batson / Alamy

Reddit moderators provide $3.4 million in unpaid labor to keep the platform relatively free of disreputable content, which equates to nearly 3% of Reddit’s revenue.

The social news website relies on moderators to maintain the standard of content on its subreddits or individual topic-focused forums. Moderators can resolve disputes, impose rules on what is appropriate and inappropriate, and remove or edit content deemed inappropriate for the site.

“Reddit has become a very important platform when you search Google,” says Hanlin Li of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She and her colleagues used public log data automatically generated by Reddit to calculate the amount of volunteer work done, as well as data from a selection of subreddits that installed a bot to track the actions of moderators.

The team recorded the work done to keep 126 subreddits moderate for an average of 142 days and analyzed the automated logs generated each time the 900 human moderators took an action.

In total, more than 800,000 actions have been registered. Some actions contained full timestamps indicating the start and end of the job; others contained only a single timestamp – to delete a message, for example – and so the time needed was estimated at what the researchers consider a lower limit.

The median time an individual spends working on a daily basis is 10 seconds, but the top 10% of moderators spend between 3 and 40 minutes working for Reddit. Two out of three actions were taken by the top 10% moderators.

This work adds up quickly. Each day in 2020, the moderation team worked for approximately 466 hours, based on the logs of moderators who participated in the study. Billed at the median cost of $20 per hour for content moderators on the UpWork website in the US, the job would cost Reddit $3.4 million a year, or 2.8% of revenue. company’s total in 2019.

“The paper is extremely interesting,” says Carolina Are of Northumbria University, UK. “It really shows how, again, internet work of all kinds is truly undervalued – not just by platforms, but by society as a whole.”

Are says the document shines a light on the precariousness of online work. “The fact that such crucial work as content moderation is outsourced to commercial companies or unpaid volunteers shows how little platforms are interested in investing in improving the communities they create. “

A Reddit spokesperson said new scientist“We believe our approach to community governance is the most sustainable and scalable model that exists online today.” They highlighted various initiatives offered by the company, including a $1 million community fund. “We are always exploring ways to better support our moderators and communities,” the spokesperson added.

Reference: Proceedings of the AAAI International Web and Social Media Conference

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Maria D. Ervin