Late on Wednesday, a moderator of the popular Reddit message board WallStreetBets posted several screenshots on the chat app Discord. They showed that other moderators had quietly started talking among themselves about landing a movie deal.
“What’s our cut?” one of the moderators had asked in a Discord chat, according to the screenshots.
By Thursday morning, that quest for Hollywood riches had exploded into an ugly battle, giving a glimpse into the unruly nature of a suddenly famous Reddit community. That was when the WallStreetBets moderators who were considering the film deal began booting out other moderators who had questioned them for secretly trying to profit from the forum’s success. Eventually, employees at Reddit weighed in to try to quell the unrest.
“Can you all discuss with me what is going on?” a Reddit employee with the screen name sodypop asked, according to screenshots of the conversation shared with The New York Times.
The WallStreetBets fight is the latest twist in the saga of an online army of investors who have roiled Wall Street over the past 10 days. Fueled by posts on the message board, where participants urged one another to buy the stock of the video-game retailer GameStop, the company’s shares went on an extraordinary run. The market frenzy entrapped hedge funds that had bet against GameStop’s stock, a populist move that soon captured mainstream imagination.
GameStop’s shares have since gyrated wildly. On Thursday, the stock plunged 42 percent.
The chaos has put a spotlight on WallStreetBets, which has been on Reddit since 2012 and which millions use to trade stock tips and chat about specific investments. Once the GameStop mania began last month, millions more joined the message board. At one point, the forum’s settings were set to private — meaning that posts could not be publicly viewed — because it was so overwhelmed by the flood of attention. By Thursday afternoon, WallStreetBets had over 8.5 million members, the vast majority of whom had joined in the wake of GameStop.
“It’s definitely huge,” Nick Cormier, 35, a Los Angeles resident who has been a regular lurker on WallStreetBets for the last four years, said of the influx of new users and attention. “The amount even this past week has been astronomical.”
Moderators, who handle the day-to-day management of the online community, are central to all Reddit boards. On a volunteer basis, they sift through thousands of comments, bar users who break the rules and draft guidelines. Some moderators also build custom technology, such as automated bots, to help the group run more smoothly.