Late on Wednesday, a moderator of the popular Reddit message board WallStreetBets posted several screenshots in the Discord chat app. They showed that other presenters had spoken quietly to each other to get a film deal.
“What’s our cut?” One of the moderators had asked according to screenshots in a Discord chat.
By Thursday morning, that quest for Hollywood fortune had turned into an ugly battle that gave a glimpse into the unruly nature of a suddenly famous Reddit community.
It was at this point that WallStreetBets presenters, considering the film deal, began turning off other presenters who had questioned them for secretly trying to capitalize on the forum’s success. Eventually, Reddit staff weighed in to quell the riot.
“Can you all talk to me about what’s going on?” a Reddit employee by the name of Sodypop asked for screenshots of the conversation shared with the New York Times.
The WallStreetBets battle is the latest twist in the saga of an online army of investors who have messed up Wall Street for the past 10 days. Driven by posts on the message board in which attendees asked each other to buy shares in video game retailer GameStop, the company’s shares did exceptionally well. The hype included hedge funds betting against GameStop’s stocks, a populist move that soon caught the mainstream’s imagination.
GameStop’s stocks have spun wildly since then. On Thursday, the stock fell 42 percent.
The chaos has put the spotlight on WallStreetBets, which has been running on Reddit since 2012 and with which millions of stock picks swap and chat about certain investments. When the GameStop mania began last month, millions more joined the message board. At one point the forum’s settings were set to private – meaning posts couldn’t be viewed publicly – because they were so overwhelmed by the flood of attention.
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As of Thursday afternoon, WallStreetBets had over 8.5 million members, the vast majority of whom had joined after GameStop.
“It’s definitely huge,” said Nick Cormier, 35, a Los Angeles resident who has been watching WallStreetBets regularly for nearly four years, of the influx of new users and attention. “The amount was astronomical last week, too.”
Moderators, who take care of the day-to-day management of the online community, play a central role on all Reddit boards. On a voluntary basis, they sift through thousands of comments, block users who break the rules, and draft guidelines. Some moderators also develop custom technologies, such as: B. automated bots to support the smooth running of the group. The number of WallStreetBets moderators has changed over time, but there have been a few dozen in the past few weeks.
Reddit didn’t immediately have a comment.
WallStreetBets was founded in 2012 by Jaime Rogozinski, 39, an IT consultant in Mexico City.
“I was looking for a community where people could talk unexcused about high-risk trades to make short-term money with disposable income,” he told TMZ last month.
However, early last year, Mr. Rogozinski struggled to maintain control. He became embroiled in a controversy over links with a trading group that sponsored an event for the Message Board, leading to allegations of insider trading and biased stock promotion. Last April, Mr. Rogozinski and his allies were evicted from the community.
Now WallStreetBets is struggling to cope with the sudden advertisement for the GameStop saga.
Over the past week, several top moderators who have administrative control of the message board met in a private chat room on Discord to discuss the business opportunities arising from their sudden fame.
A presenter said he was in contact with Ben Mezrich, an author of the book that became The Social Network, who, according to screenshots from the book, had contracts to write a book and a film about the last week GameStop Saga Help Forum shared with The Times.
“Oof we have to go fast, I think,” wrote another moderator back. “While the studios compete.”
None of the six moderators surveyed by The Times were willing to give their real names, but The Times confirmed that the individuals were in control of the board’s moderator accounts.
The conversation got hot after Mr Rogozinski announced that he had sold the rights to his own story to a film studio this week. Mr. Rogozinski did not respond to requests for comment.
A longtime moderator of the group known as zjz saw the conversation and recorded the problem. He posted pictures of the conversation in a wider chat room for all moderators.
“We suddenly find that these formerly inactive moderators are trying to * literally * sell the story of how they built the subreddit and undermined us,” zjz wrote in an email to The Times.
In a post to WallStreetBets on Wednesday evening that was quickly removed, zjz also wrote: “We have been taken hostage by the top mods. They went for years and came back smelling money. “
This led to escalating accusations and insults that soon went beyond a film contract. Some criticized the top moderators for measures they had taken to raise their profile, such as setting up a Twitter account and hiring a PR representative. Some also threatened death.
Late Wednesday and early Thursday, top moderators began removing lower-level moderators who were asking questions.
When they were reached on their new Twitter account, the top hosts said they wanted to get a film deal but planned to raise income for charity.
“Trying to make it look like we’re snatching money is so dishonest,” the moderators wrote.
The top moderators said the fight was also due to their desire to modernize the board given all the new people who have started it. Opposing moderators like zjz wanted to keep the feeling of WallStreetBets.
“It was his life’s work and he fears that it will change significantly,” said the moderators.
At least that was what the two sides were oriented towards.
“This was our clubhouse with all our friends, where we let go and were honest because we were there for the money, but not to sell something to each other,” wrote zjz via email.
On Thursday afternoon, Reddit stepped in to remove the top WallStreetBets moderators. They brought back control of the moderators who campaigned for zjz, although zjz itself was not restored.
Mr Cormier, who has been out of work since March when he lost his job in a shop specializing in the Magic the Gathering game, said he was dismayed by the fighting on WallStreetBets.
He feared the forum would fragment, making it next to impossible to launch the kind of coordinated effort that had sparked such a spectacular market reaction last week.
“If they kill WallStreetBets it will be really difficult to restart that effort,” he said.