A couple weeks ago, most people hadn’t ever heard of WallStreetBets, the edgelord Reddit hangout for renegade investors and amatuer traders. Now it’s blown up to over 8.5 million users, and a war has broken out between the old mods and the new for control over the community and its future.
“Big drama going down in WallStreetBets right now,” The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted out earlier today. “Retired old mods have come out of inactivity and kicked the current mods out now that there’s movie deals/media attn. Everyone is rallying in the test subreddit that the “active” mods still control.”
Overnight, WallStreetBets moderator zjz, one of most active mods in recent weeks as it exploded in popularity, posted a now deleted thread on the subreddit titled “wallstreetbets will die soon unless the admins save us.” It went on to charge earlier mods who had previously laid dormant of coming back to try and usurp control of the community to profit off the attention but did not call anyone out by name.
“They’ve been busy creating private email addresses to funnel all the press correspondence away for their own gain, talking shit about all of the active mods, and scrambling to get paid from some movie deal,” zjz wrote. “The other plan is that some friend of the top mod’s has wormed into his brain and is going to use WSB as a springboard to launch some stupid crypto shit.”
Zjz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
WallStreetBets was originally created by Reddit user jartek, who’s real name is Jaime Rogozinski, back in 2012. Early last year, however, he claims he was kicked out of the community after trying to reign it in and more strictly moderate hate speech, The Wall Street Journal reports, while those on WallStreetBets say he was ousted following controversy around accusations of conflicts of interest and insider trading. The subreddit has dozens of mods, a small group of which have been around for several years, while the rest, including zjz, were added in the last year or so.
Now that movie studios are buying up story rights and optioning scripts for Rogozinski’s story and others, it’s clear the legacy behind WallStreetBets could be lucrative beyond the stock trading. Even before this week, many were trying to cash in on the GameStop meme stock phenomenon by creating and selling WallStreetBets and GameStonk-inspired merchandise. Even UK game retailer Game tried to get in on the action.
It’s unclear where exactly the battle lines are being drawn up between the old mods and the new, but supporters of zjz have already created a new subreddit called WallStreetBetsTest and created a petition to try and get control of WallStreetBets proper transferred over to zjz. Another mod, disabledsexrobot, announced on WallStreetBetsTest that they were resigning from the original WallStreetBets in protest.
This comes amidst a reckoning as GameStop’s stock price continues to plummet. It started trading at just over $90 Thursday and is currently trending downwards to just $50. The subreddit that started meme stock mania is now coming apart at the seams, egging each other on to “hold the line” and not sell their existing shares, while others try to tease out how this all ends without them losing a bunch of money. This groundswell of desperation has led redditors to make pleas to billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Cuban. Nevermind that said billionaires are beneficiaries of the same rigged Wall Street system that some on WallStreetBets purported to be fighting, leading to support behindGameStop and AMC stocks. Meanwhile, some investors who were winning big just a week ago are now coming to grips with steep losses as the whole thing unravels.
Subreddit power struggles are nothing new, especially when they grow exponentially almost overnight. Of course, none have been at the center of big financial controversies before. Congress is currently set to hold hearings in the House about GameStop and other meme stocks on February 18. Maybe it can get some of WallStreetBets mods to testify at it as well.
Update - 7:36 a.m. ET, 2/5/21: Yesterday evening Reddit admins reportedly stepped in to restore control of WallStreetBets back to its more recent “active” mods. While not all of them have been restored—zjz is apparently still no longer a moderator—the new mods have been going through and unbanning users who had previously been sanctioned for speaking out about the “WSB Coup d’état.”
Meanwhile, the old mods denied claims they had returned to try and make a quick buck. “When reached on their new Twitter account, the top moderators said they wanted to strike a movie deal, but were planning to give any proceeds to charity,” The New York Times reports. “The top moderators said that the battle was also rooted in their desire to modernize the board, given all the new people who have begun using it. Opposing moderators like zjz, they said, wanted to keep the more homespun feeling of what WallStreetBets used to be.”
Correction - 7:32 a.m. ET, 2/5/21: The article has been updated to include more information about why WallStreetBets creator Jaime Rogozinski was thrown out of the group.