King of Reddit Karma GallowBoob Accused of Shilling for Netflix
Accuse first. Provide evidence later … if at all.
That seems to be the modus operandi for internet ink slingers these days in which the traditional filter of fact-based newsgathering and reporting has long been ripped to shreds by the idealistic—yet oftentimes problematic—democratization of the internet.
Such was the case on Saturday when one of Reddit’s most prominent users, GallowBoob, who currently holds the title for most Karma points on the site, faced a torrent of criticism in which the power-user was accused in multiple forums of shilling for Netflix.
On its surface, GallowBoob’s now-controversial post seems innocuous enough. Netflix had recently unveiled a new logo animation that will play ahead of its Originals programming. GallowBoob, one of Reddit’s most prolific submitters, subsequently posted the animation to the Oddly Satisfying subreddit under the title “Netflix has had the same logo animation for five years. They updated it yesterday.” It immediately set off conspiratorial alarms.
How did GallowBoob come across the newly-released logo so quickly? Who provided it to him? And why did he post the seemingly promotional content to a subreddit that he not only frequents, but also serves as a moderator?
On a site like Reddit, where privacy and anonymity are paramount, it’s easy to forget that behind every username is a user. Or perhaps the term “user” itself is too indistinct. Behind every username is a person. And the person now being accused of shilling for Netflix is Robert Allam, a 32-year old London-based former landscape architect who turned his part-time proficiency at posting on Reddit into two full-time media marketing executive positions working for Bored Panda and Supload Inc., respectively.
Beyond anonymity, Reddit also draws a deep and aggressively asserted line in the sand against all types of guerrilla marketing towards its users, whether it’s in the form of corporate shilling or self-promotion. If Allam were indeed shilling on behalf of Netflix, he’d face an immediate ban from the site, losing not only his 27 million karma points, but his substantial influence as well.
In the wake of GallowBoob’s post to Oddly Satisfying and the myriad accusations of being a paid shill that followed, Allam did little to help his defense. Dozens of comments accusing him of unscrupulously promoting Netflix were deleted from the thread. Allam soon used his moderator authority to lock the post. He then posted a photoshopped picture of himself posing with Netflix executives as a satiric retort. Lastly—and perhaps worst of all—Allam fought with at least one user via private message arguing that there was “no proof,” instead of issuing an outright denial.
But does the lack of an outright denial equate to guilt? In the court of public opinion, yes, it often does. Because too many people—especially those in positions of power—have employed the non-denial defense tactic to weasel their way out of troublesome situations. For the hyper-aggressive judge, jury, and executioners of Reddit, nothing else was required before they decided to pounce.
The fallout was swift and severe. Reddit user EVra66 created a post on Hail Corporate with a title that definitively stated “Netflix pays /u/Gallowboob to advertise on reddit …” The post skyrocketed. Not only did it rank as the top post of the day for that particular subreddit, the submission currently stands as Hail Corporate’s top post of all time. Additional posts in Best Of, Subreddit Drama, and Out of the Loop—the latter of which hit the front page Sunday night—further reinforced the apparent credulity of the accusations.
Accusations that can potentially involve serious legal ramifications, since it’s against Federal Trade Commission rules to surreptitiously promote goods and services online. Per the FTC’s guidelines, here’s an example scenario in which said rules would apply:
I’m a video blogger who lives in London. I create sponsored beauty videos on YouTube. The products that I promote are also sold in the U.S. Am I under any obligation to tell my viewers that I have been paid to endorse products, considering that I’m not living in the U.S.?
To the extent it is reasonably foreseeable that your YouTube videos will be seen by and affect U.S. consumers, U.S. law would apply and a disclosure would be required. Also, the U.K. and many other countries have similar laws and policies, so you’ll want to check those, too.
Everything that has been stated so far might still allow for Redditors to believe that Robert Allam is indeed guilty of being a paid shill. It’s an opinion that, while understandable, is also severely flawed, built entirely upon a foundation that is utterly devoid of any evidence. Given the circumstances, we can’t help but to draw parallels between GallowBoob’s plight and that of the “accused man” from the 1957 movie ’12 Angry Men’ (yeah, let’s not forget we’re a site dedicated to the best of cinema, so of course we’re going to drop a classic film reference!).
Both stories share the same two commonalities: a lack of hard evidence proving guilt, and an abundance of exculpatory evidence providing reasonable doubt.
To wit: how did GallowBoob come across the newly-released logo so quickly? The truth is, he didn’t. GallowBoob made his now-infamous post to Oddly Satisfying on February 2nd. Meanwhile, Netflix announced the new logo animation via their Twitter news handle on February 1st. That same day, Netflix also provided exclusive details about the logo to Fast Company. In turn, various other major movie news organizations quickly picked up the story, including Deadline.com, Variety, and The Verge. They all published articles about the logo a full day before GallowBoob’s post.
Furthermore, news of the re-vamped logo was specifically posted to the Netflix subreddit at least twice on February 1st—again, well ahead of GallowBoob—which only increases the number of outlets in which a power user such as himself might’ve seen it.
Thanks to our baser instincts, it’s easier to hate on GallowBoob than it is to try and understand the real Robert Allam. Luckily, he’s pulled back the curtain (Ha! A ‘Wizard of Oz’ reference!) just enough so that anyone who wishes to contextualize this entire fiasco can do so.
His stance on not being a shill has always been clear. A 2016 interview with Forbes reads in part:
“These people meant business,” Allam said, recalling how one GIF-related website was willing to pay $500 initially for him to just use their site. While tempting, Allam has never accepted any of these offers. He was loath to be labelled a “Reddit shill,” someone who uses Reddit popularity status to peddle or promote a product. Allam also wanted to wait for something more substantial and in February, that happened.
That last bit refers to a full time, salaried position as a marketing executive in which Allam was hired based on his track record of successfully navigating the viral media landscape.
A thorough search of GallowBoob’s lifetime post history using RedditSearch.io reveals fewer Netflix-related submissions than would reasonably expect from such a prolific poster—and none indicate any sort of abject shillery. Furthermore, if Allam were going to shill for anyone, it’d be for Supload, an image sharing site that also serves as his current employer. But once again, his post history is free of any conflicts of interest. What’s more, Allam doesn’t even use the site to host his content. All his submissions are hosted via Reddit, Imgur, and Gfycat—direct competitors of the very same company that issues his paycheck.
The final verdict on all this is simple: Robert Allam, the man better known around the world as GallowBoob, has more to lose by shilling on Reddit than he has to gain, and he knows it. Per this video interview by Point Media titled “How to Make Money from Reddit” (at the 11m14s mark), when asked about his personal ethos regarding using his influence for good or ill, Allam himself sums it up quite succinctly:
“It’s not spilling over to my account. Ever.… I’m not here to shill on Reddit at all.… I have too much to lose, if I try something and it backfires. I have everything to lose, and if I lose everything, it’s just not worth it.”
Notice the nearly identical phrasing between Wieselman’s tweet and GallowBoob’s post:
Wieselman’s Tweet: “Netflix has had the same logo animation for almost five years!! Today we upgraded it”
GallowBoob’s Post: “Netflix has had the same logo animation for five years. They updated it yesterday.”
As a society, we need to be reminded from time to time that the notion of being “innocent until proven guilty” is so critical to the protection and preservation of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that it’s even been codified into the United States Constitution as part of the 14th Amendment.
A lot of people were at their worst this weekend. It doesn’t have to remain that way. Let’s flip the script and show the best of us. Given the nature of this debacle, let’s fight for something positive. Let’s fight for justice.
The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal organization that is committed to exonerating wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The group cites various studies estimating that in the United States, between 2.3 and 5% of all prisoners are innocent.
The work of the Innocence Project has led to the freeing of more than 362 wrongfully convicted people based on DNA, including 20 individuals who spent time on death row, and the finding of 158 real perpetrators.