Election 2020

Are These Vulgarity-Spouting Birds a Threat to Democracy?

Aaron Reynolds is just trying to make people laugh, but his content may have been flagged on Instagram for interfering with the election.


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Aaron Reynolds is the Canadian author and humorist behind some of the most bizarrely funny meme accounts to grace the internet. His popular "Swear Trek" and "Effin' Birds" social media accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers—and provide the perfect reactions to just about everything that's happened in 2020.

Reynolds is just trying to make people laugh on the internet, but this is his business too—he's got a book out, and sells Effin' Birds merchandise through an online store.

So when Reynolds noticed that his usually very popular Instagram posts under the "Effin' Birds" account weren't reaching as many viewers as usual during the final weeks of the presidential campaign, he was worried. Though he hasn't been able to get a straight answer from the social media giant, Reynolds suspects his content may have been flagged for running afoul of an algorithm meant to weed out foreign election interference. (Reason has had its own troubles with Instagram's location services, which seem to think this publication is based in the United Kingdom even after we proved we are not.)

Last month, Reynolds sat down with Reason for a conversation about his vulgarity-spouting birds, the power of social media companies, and how greater government regulation of the internet is no laughing matter.

Hosted by Eric Boehm. Produced and edited by Justin Monticello. Written by Boehm and Monticello. Graphics by Isaac Reese. Audio production by Ian Keyser.

Music: "Speed Freak" by Evgeny Bardyuzha and "DuDa" by Ian Post licensed through Artlist.io.