In the past week, as the coronavirus pandemic has enveloped the globe—with governments shutting down nearly every facet of society to control the outbreak—Reddit says it has seen a “surge” in traffic.
While Reddit would not provide exact numbers, the company has seen a significant increase in direct traffic to the site—not including search engine or referral traffic—and the Reddit mobile applications on iOS and Android are “growing faster than all other platforms and at the fastest rate we have seen in a couple years,” a spokesperson for the company said Tuesday. They also noted a 20% year-to-date increase in Reddit’s chat platform.
According to Comscore, Reddit garnered 85.4 million uniques in February in the U.S. Reddit reports internal numbers of 430 million monthly active users worldwide.
Reddit, which is divided into communities of interest called subreddits, said it saw traffic increases of 20-50% in subreddits related to business, finance, news, education, travel and sports over the past week. While the company wouldn’t provide daily active user numbers for subreddits, the company continually touted its global traffic increase over the past week.
For example, r/investing and r/wallstreetbets each saw a ninefold increase in views, the latter seeing 11.7 million pageviews on March 12 as stocks plunged into a bear market.
As most sports leagues have canceled or suspended their seasons, Reddit traffic has responded in accord. On March 11, when the NBA season was suspended, r/nba saw 1.5 million pageviews and 13,000 comments. When Arsenal F.C. coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for COVID-19, r/soccer spiked with 488,000 views and 2,200 comments, Reddit confirmed.
On Tuesday, r/coronavirus ranked second among the website’s top growing communities with 1.2 million members. Additionally, Reddit users created r/stayingathome on March 15 dedicated to learning new skills and managing work from home and life in self-isolation, and it is already among the top five fastest-growing subreddits.
With so many Americans working from home and, potentially, out of their supervisor’s line of vision, overall web traffic is likely up—many broadband providers are preparing their networks and expanding coverage in accordance with new guidelines from the FCC. Online infrastructure and security company Cloudfare told NPR Tuesday that internet use was up 40% in Seattle compared with January, and in South Korea, visits to news websites are up around 60% during the coronavirus outbreak.
But so far, Reddit is one of the few websites that have willingly voiced a noticeable increase in traffic. Adweek reported Friday that internet porn giant Pornhub saw a nearly 6% uptick in traffic last Wednesday as many Americans started working from their homes. Adweek requested data from most social networking websites this week, and only Reddit disclosed what it has seen during the most recent stretch of the pandemic.
As traffic increases on social platforms, so does the need to moderate content. Every major social platform has committed to spotlighting authoritative information while rooting out misinformation and disinformation from actors malicious or unaware. Monday night, a group of the largest firms in Silicon Valley—Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, YouTube and, yes, Reddit—signed on to a joint statement in which they pledged to collaborate on “combating fraud and misinformation about the virus, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.”
Reddit’s moderation is unique in that it relies upon community moderators, who adhere to sitewide policies and set their own—often more stringent—rules to combat misinformation and ensure the free flow of conversation in the community. For example, r/coronavirus rules prohibit “spreading misinformation,” “encouraging the use of non sourced or speculative opinion as fact,” “accusing (ethnic and/or racial) groups in a generalizing way” and bans users giving out medical advice from the subreddit.
A spokesperson noted that Reddit may also opt to “quarantine” a community that is rife with hoaxes or misinformation. r/wuhan_flu and r/coronavirusconspiracy have already received this treatment, and any users who want to access the community will first see: “This community is quarantined: It may contain misinformation or hoax content. For medically accurate information about the 2019 novel coronavirus, please see the resources available at the Centers for Disease Control” and a link to the CDC website.
Like other social platforms, Reddit has promoted CDC information on its homepage. “KEEP YOURSELF SAFE AND INFORMED,” the website’s homepage reads. “Visit r/Coronavirus to talk about COVID-19, and visit the Centers for Disease Control at CDC.gov for more information.” Any searches for coronavirus-related search terms elicit a similar prompt from the site. They have also promoted an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with Dr. Jonathan Quick, a former director of the World Health Organization and the author of The End of Epidemics.
If Reddit’s traffic numbers are any indication, it is likely not alone in seeing a large traffic bump from the coronavirus pandemic and externalities such as the many U.S. residents working from home.
With greater traffic, however, comes greater responsibility, and each social platform must rise to the task to keep their users safe online and in the real world.