Late on Wednesday, a moderator of popular Reddit news feed WallStreetBets posted some screenshots on chat app Discord. They showed that the other moderators were quietly starting to talk to each other about reaching a film deal.
“What’s our cut?” one of the moderators asked during the Discord conversation, according to the screenshot.
By Thursday morning, the Hollywood search for wealth had exploded into an ugly battle, showing us the rebellious nature of a Reddit community suddenly famous.
That’s when WallStreetBets executives reviewing the film deal began to remove other moderators who questioned them for secretly trying to profit from the forum’s success. Finally, the staff at Reddit weighed in to try to quell the unrest.
“Can you all discuss with me what’s going on?” A Reddit employee with the display name sodypop asked, according to a screenshot of the conversation shared with The New York Times.
The WallStreetBets War is the latest turning point in the story of the army of online investors that has riled Wall Street for the past 10 days. Spurred by message board posts, where participants urged each other to buy shares of video game retailer GameStop, the company’s shares soared. The market frenzy enticed hedge funds to bet on GameStop shares, a populist move that soon captured the mainstream imagination.
Shares of GameStop have since risen sharply. Shares fell 42% on Thursday.
The chaos has caught WallStreetBets’s attention, has been on Reddit since 2012 and millions use it to trade stock tips and chat about specific investments. When the GameStop craze started last month, millions more joined the message board. At one point, the forum’s setting was made private – that is, the posts cannot be viewed publicly – because it was overwhelmed by the amount of attention.
By Thursday afternoon, WallStreetBets had more than 8.5 million members, the majority of whom had joined after the launch of GameStop.
“It’s definitely huge,” said Los Angeles resident Nick Cormier, 35, who has been following WallStreetBets for most of the past four years, about new users and attention. “The amount even in the past week is huge.”
Moderators, who handle the day-to-day management of the online community, are at the heart of all Reddit councils. On a voluntary basis, they sift through thousands of comments, bar users breaking drafting rules and instructions. Some moderators also build custom technology, such as automated bots, to help the team operate more smoothly. The number of people running WallStreetBets has fluctuated over time, but in recent weeks there have been a few dozen.
Reddit was not immediately available for comment.
WallStreetBets was founded in 2012 by Jaime Rogozinski, 39 years old, an information technology consultant based in Mexico City.
“I’m looking for a community, a place for people to talk about high-risk transactions in a non-sorry way so people make some short-term money with disposable income,” he said. TMZ last month.
But at the beginning of last year, Mr. Rogozinski struggled to maintain control. He was embroiled in a controversy over a relationship with a trading group that sponsored a newsletter event, which led to allegations of insider trading and biased stock advertising. Last April, Mr. Rogozinski and his community allies were ousted.
Now, WallStreetBets is struggling to deal with the sudden publicity of the GameStop story.
During the past week, some of the top moderators, who have control over message board administration, met in a private chat room on Discord to discuss business opportunities arising from unpopularity. doubts.
One moderator said he contacted Ben Mezrich, the author of the book that became the movie “Social Network”, who last week secured agreements to write a book and help make a series. movie about GameStop saga, according to screenshots from the forum shared with The Times.
“I think we have to go quickly,” wrote another operator. “While the studios are competing.”
None of the six executives The Times interviewed was willing to give their real names, but The Times verified that these people were in control of the board’s executive account.
The conversation heated up after Mr. Rogozinski announced that he had sold his own story to a studio this week. Mr. Rogozinski did not respond to a request for comment.
A longtime group moderator, known as zjz, watched the conversation and raised the issue. He posted pictures of the chat in a wider chat room open to all moderators.
“We suddenly discovered these previously inactive moderators were trying to * literally * sell stories about how they built subreddit and undermined us,” zjz wrote in an email to The Times.
In a WallStreetBets post on Wednesday night, quickly removed, zjz also wrote: “We were held hostage by top mods. They leave for years and come back when they smell the money. ”
That led to increasing criticism and insults, soon going beyond the filmmaking deal. Some began to criticize top moderators for moves they have taken to enhance their profile, like creating a Twitter account and hiring a public relations representative. Some even threatened to kill.
Late Wednesday and early Thursday, top moderators began removing the lower ranked moderators who were questioning.
When achieved on Twitter accountTop censors said they wanted to secure a filmmaking deal, but are planning to donate any proceeds to charity.
“They trying to make it look like we’re taking money are dishonest,” the moderator wrote.
Top executives say the battle also stems from a desire to modernize their boards, with all those just starting to use it. Opposition censors like zjz, they say, want to retain a more cheerful feeling WallStreetBets used to be.
“It was the job of his life and he was afraid it would fundamentally change,” said the executives.
To this, at least, the two sides have been aligned.
“This is our guild with all our friends, where we are relaxed and honest about being in there for money, but not in there to sell each other anything,” zjz wrote. by email.
On Thursday afternoon, Reddit stepped in to get rid of the top WallStreetBets moderators. They put the zjz-side moderators back in control, even though zjz itself has not been reinstated.
Mr. Cormier, who has been unemployed since March when he lost his job in a store that specializes in the game Magic the Gathering, said he was dismayed by the fight on the WallStreetBets.
He feared the forum would disintegrate, leaving all but unable to launch the kind of concerted effort that generated such a spectacular market reaction last week.
“If they kill WallStreetBets, it will be really hard to start this endeavor again,” he said.