Reddit has “quarantined” its subreddit “The_Donald,” the most popular section of its site for supporters of President Trump because of what it said were “threats of violence against police and public officials.”
The subreddit has previously been embraced by Trump and his circle — in 2016, then candidate Trump held an “ask me anything” session on the forum. And The_Donald plays a central role in the online Trump-supporting world, with topics and memes often going viral there before they trend on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms. Trump himself has tweeted at least one meme made by a user of The_Donald and Trump’s current campaign manager said in 2016 that he visits it every day.
The quarantine means that people visiting The_Donald will see a warning message before accessing the subreddit and its posts will not appear in Reddit search.
“The reason for the quarantine is that over the last few months we have observed repeated rule-breaking behavior in your community,” Reddit staff wrote to the volunteer moderators of The_Donald on Wednesday.
“Most recently, we have observed this behavior in the form of encouragement of violence towards police officers and public officials in Oregon,” Reddit added.
While Reddit has a team of moderators on staff, The_Donald, like other subreddits, is mostly moderated by volunteers, in this case Trump supporters.
In a statement provided to CNN, a Reddit spokesperson said, “We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit. As we have shared, we are sensitive to what could be considered political speech, however, recent behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy. As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit.”
Moderators of The_Donald argued on Wednesday that Reddit had set an “impossible standard” for the community to maintain, and that it was “a reason to kill us before the 2020 election.”
During a discussion hosted on Reddit last month, Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, asked Reddit CEO Steve Huffman what the company was doing about moderating content on The_Donald.
“From what I am told, The_Donald is home to messages that cross the line toward inciting the hatred that is eroding our democracy,” Wyden wrote.
“As it relates to r/the_donald specifically,” Huffman replied, “we watch them closely, and we do our best to hold them to the same standards and policies as we do all communities. Before we action any community.”
Huffman then explained why he’s not generally in favor of banning a group like The_Donald, saying, “banning a large political community that isn’t in violation of our policies would be hugely problematic, not just for Reddit, but for our democracy generally. Political speech is the most protected form of speech in the United States, and we are sensitive to that and take cues from the government when we think about our policies.”