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Well this is creepsville. Over the last few months, popular content aggregator Reddit's AMA (Ask Me Anything) forum has become one of the most popular sections of the site. It generally works like this: Someone with a story to tell creates a dummy account on Reddit and posts a thread inviting other users to engage in an informal Q&A session. Some popular recent entries include:

With this success has come some criticism. Many of the AMA entries are anonymous. And some of them make extraordinary claims. Should Reddit institute a verification system that would enable the community to police the AMA threads? Some people think so.

Currently, Reddit does nothing to verify the identities of AMA posters:


Reddit community manager Erik Martin said the company doesn't attempt to verify the stories of social networking participants who choose to post anonymously. He noted that Lucidending's post is the third most popular since reddit.com started its "IAmA" forum a year ago.


Consider two recent AMA threads. First, a girl tries to raise money for cancer research in order to support a dying loved one. Some Reddit users immediately questioned her claims, with some seemingly crusading to prove her a fraud. She was legit.

Gawker's Adrian Chen talked to the girl in an inflammatory post titled "Misguided Interent Vigilantes Attack College Student's Cancer Fundraiser." The post was extremely critical of the Reddit community. But Adrian didn't stop there.

Four days ago, an AMA thread entitled "51 Hours Left to Live" posted by a user called "Lucidending," appeared on Reddit:

On Tuesday I'll finally end my battle with cancer thanks to Oregon's Death with dignity act. As part of my preparations I've ended my pain medication and am trying to regain what little dignity and clarity I can.

Who I was doesn't matter. I'm in pain, I'm tired and I'm finally being granted a small shred of respect. Feel free to AMA if you're so inclined.


In contrast to the former AMA, this post was met with immediate, overwhelming sympathy. No one questioned the guy's identity, and the community engaged in a poignant conversation in the guy's "final hours."

But they weren't Lucidending's last hours. That's because Lucidending is a cancer-free twenty-something named Adrian Chen. Chen outed himself on Twitter on Tuesday.

Needless to say, Reddit users are enraged. A lot of the people who talked with Lucidending were either suffering from cancer or living with those who are.

Imagine being this lady:

I miscarried my first pregnancy this week. My husband and I have been struggling with all sorts of questions. It was feeling like my world had ended. Just reading through here, the weight has lifted somewhat and I feel more at peace. This thread is the most profound and healing thread I've ever seen on reddit. Thank you so much, Lucidending. I love you, too.


And then to find out it was all a hoax to prove that Reddit's skepticism is selective? There are dozens more posts as heartbreaking as this one. I mean...dude. Who is the "misguided internet vigilante" again?

I like Adrian. I loved some of the reporting he did on 4chan and Stickydrama last year. Few people in journalism get this stuff the way he does. I also agree that some Reddit users are sexist jerks and that the site (as with any large online community) does suffer from a herd mentality.

But in their defense, the girl was asking for money. She didn't deserve the witch hunt, but Reddit's users were right in displaying some skepticism. What if she had been a fraud? In contrast, Lucidending wasn't asking for anything, just conversation. To say that the difference in reactions to these two AMA's was all about gender is a complete cop-out. As someone who has frequented Reddit on a daily basis, I can say with some certainty that the reaction would have been the same had Lucidending been introduced as a female. The distinguishing factor is the money, not the sex.

I tried getting in touch with Adrian. He's preparing a piece for Gawker about the whole thing. If people want to exact revenge on Adrian or Gawker for this unquestionably dickish move, the best thing they can do is stop reading the site. They get paid by pageviews.

Reddit users have the power to cripple Gawker Media's traffic by downvoting its submissions to Reddit. Here is a list of Gawker Media blogs. If Reddit users were so inclined, they could cost the company millions. Just saying!

BIG OL' CAVEAT: It's possible that Chen's fibbing about being Lucidending (He declined to confirm, likely so he can own the story on Gawker) and that this is all some kind of metaprank, which doesn't absolve him from blame necessarily, but makes him slightly less of a douchebag.

FOLLOW-UP: Adrian Chen Isn't Lucidending After All.