Freewheeling Discussion Site Reddit Rescues African Orphanage
The campaigns continue on Reddit.
For a Kenyan orphanage, $80,000 can literally mean the difference between life and death. And for ever-more-influential discussion site Reddit, raising the cash was surprisingly easy.
As reported by the Associated Press, readers rushed to the aid of Kenyan Anthony Omari and the orphanage his mother, Martha Bosire, runs, after Reddit member Ben Hardwick posted a photo of Omari’s horrific injury. On Jan. 23, while defending the orphanage from attackers – thieves from a nearby shanty town – Omari took a blow from a machete that split his face open from the top of his forehead to his upper lip (though curiously missed most of his nose).
Hardwick, a 21-year-old Penn State student, has been interning in Kenya and went to meet Omari after he heard of the attack. Hardwick posted a photo of Omari on Reddit on Jan. 25 and spurred an outpouring of support. Within a week, 3600 members from every U.S. state and a total of 46 countries had donated more than $80,000 in all. The funds have gone to security measures for the orphanage: hiring security guards, building a new fence and installing new locks for the two small houses that cram in 37 children.
Founded in June 2005 by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, the social network and discussion group Reddit has been expanding out of its underground-tech and political activist culture to influence national and global politics. The format and volume of posts resemble discussions in old-time, pre-Web IRC chat rooms still popular with members of Anonymous. But the Web-based Reddit interface – something like a sloppy version of Facebook – is more accessible.
It was one of the first venues to spread word of Occupy Wall Street preparations back in July and August. For example, Patrick Bruner, who has become one of the main spokespeople of the New York City branch, first showed up at the small Sept. 17 rally holding up a sign with the site's signature red-eyed, antenna-bearing mascot. (He told this reporter that he’d first learned of Occupy in an anarchist discussion group on the site.)
Reddit also took a prominent role in the protests against SOPA and PIPA anti-piracy legislation that activists believe would be overly restrictive on Web companies, artists and entrepreneurs. Reddit was one of the many sites, along with, most famously, Wikipedia, which "went dark" Jan. 18 to protest the legislation. And Ohanian gave an impassioned speech that day to between 1,000 and 2,000 protesters who gathered in New York City.
Along with Anonymous – with which there is plenty of overlap – Reddit shows how what had been fringe movements are of late breaking into mainstream culture and politics.