Google’s recent Reddit favouritism may be more sinister than it seems

Reddit's new 3D Snoo in front of a fire background and the Terminators
Credit: Reddit / Skydance Media

Reddit's new 3D Snoo in front of a fire background and the Terminators
Credit: Reddit / Skydance Media

Over the past few years, Reddit has been going down a path that many users hate. And plenty are mad at the company, for good reason. But the sudden changes last year to the API cost for third-party apps have put them into a negative light for plenty of passionate Reddit fans.

However, the latest decision may be the most damning of all, with Reddit agreeing to sell data to an unnamed AI company for $60 million a year. At the time, there was confusion as to what company Reddit had made a deal with. Was it OpenAI looking to power its ChatGPT bot to make the paid AI even better, further fuelling the likes of Copilot Pro too? Or was it another company looking to expand their own AI features? Only Reddit and the unnamed company knew at the time. But we know who it was now.

It was Google.

In a recent blog post from Google itself, the company has opened up on its expanded partnership with Reddit, stating "Over the years, we’ve seen that people increasingly use Google to search for helpful content on Reddit to find product recommendations, travel advice and much more". The company confirmed that Reddit will have access to Vertex AI, to enhance search as well as other capabilities.

Google's partnership blog with Reddit after recent deal to enhance AI
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Credit: Google

In the same blog post comes the most damning part, with Rajan Patel, Google's Vice President, confirming that Google will use Reddit's API which offers "real-time, structured, unique content from their large and dynamic platform", as a way to "better understand Reddit content and display, train on, and otherwise use it in the most accurate and relevant ways".

While I've shared my thoughts on one of my favourite social media platforms giving an unnamed AI company data in my aforementioned news piece, there's another layer to this deal that makes things even more sinister. Over the past few months, the media and journalism landscape has been difficult due to Google's recent algorithm updates that have made it hard to rank.

People have lost jobs due to this, causing some websites to lay off staff members in the wake of a changing Google landscape. But Reddit has been doing well with Google's changes, as we've seen the platform consistently reach the top of search queries. In all honesty, Reddit's large share of dedicated and sometimes niche communities make difficult queries easier to find out about, but there's no doubt that Google has favourited the site.

However, with the recent news of this deal, it adds a level of conspiracy. Something that not only I have noticed. What if Google has been promoting Reddit posts in an attempt to get users to engage with the content more, causing users to add data to the Reddit API, and eventually, Google itself?

Plenty of people on Twitter and in various threads on the internet have shared similar thoughts, such as Grind Stone, murmurings on SERoundtable's news piece about the subject, and ironically, Reddit itself. I've had my fair share of good things to say about AI, like the recent Galaxy AI features found in the Galaxy S24 smartphones, but I'm not sure hundreds of communities on Reddit will appreciate being used as a way to train a multi-billion dollar company's latest attempt at chasing a trend.

There's a long list of graves in the KilledbyGoogle cemetery, leading us to wonder whether Gemini AI, or whatever Google will call it next, will see years of success. There's seemingly hundreds of AI models right now, with ChatGPT and the upcoming OpenAI Sora for video creation being top of the market. Will Google's efforts be enough? I hope so for, at least for Google's sake, as there's no doubt that both Reddit and Google will have a stain on their reputations by using countless Reddit user's thoughts, feelings, creations, and answers as part of an AI churning through endless amounts of data.

It seems that, unless a good competitor can attempt to take Reddit's throne away, we're powerless in stopping Google's AI from taking our content. Even then, it would take a lot of resources and money to take market share from Reddit, as we saw Meta's attempt to take users away from Twitter after Elon Musk's purchase of the social media company. I think we all agree that Threads is dead now, right?

We have hopes that, maybe Google will start to deprioritise Reddit after this deal, or maybe Gemini AI will actually be useful for some niche and hard-to-find topics. However, I think we can all agree that it's unlikely, and that Reddit is just another cog in the seemingly never-ending machine of AI right now.

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