The do-it-yourself traders of r/WSB are waging a kind of guerrilla warfare in the markets, trying to exploit what they see as weaknesses in the system to move prices where they want them.
BTIG’s Emanuel says it’s hard to say whether today’s chatrooms or those in the late 1990s have bigger sway. “When I was sitting in a proprietary trading room in 1999, you would see certain stocks be mentioned on message boards, and the process would then be one person saying to another, ‘Hey, this looks interesting,’ ” he says. “Now you see something on a message board, and you might not necessarily see a continued discussion.” Instead, computerized traders automatically jump in. “As a human you never actually see the flow because it’s going electronically,” Emanuel says.