Reddit Is Done Pretending The Donald Is Fine
Reddit is banning one of its most notorious communities today, the subreddit—or forum—dedicated to discussion of President Donald Trump.
The ban comes after years of controversy around r/The_Donald and its promotion of racism, anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories, and violent memes starring a cartoon frog . Reddit is also removing 2,000 other communities today, including the 160,000-member subreddit associated with the popular left-wing podcast Chapo Trap House . And alongside the purge, Reddit is debuting an updated content policy that is significantly more detailed than its previous list of rules—a change that was promised three weeks ago in response to conversations about Black Lives Matter.
The new policy’s preamble states in part that “no community should be used as a weapon,” and that users should not “interfere” with communities they are not a member of—a reference to the long-standing tradition of “brigading,” or coordinated trolling. r/The_Donald, which had 790,000 members at the time of the ban, was well known for this behavior, and Reddit’s bare-bones policies and sporadic enforcement of them often meant that the moderators of targeted subreddits had to come up with their own jerry-rigged tools to prevent harassment. r/The_Donald was quarantined in June 2019—meaning that it would no longer show up in site search results and couldn’t display ads—but Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder and CEO, has vocally resisted calls to remove the subreddit until now.
Taken together, the new policy and the bans could represent a turning point for the platform, which has long weakly refuted its general reputation as a safe place for hate. In other words, Reddit is no longer pretending not to understand the real problem with subreddits like r/The_Donald, which isn’t so much that members of such forums say horrible things to one another—but rather that those communities run other people off of the site. Today’s ban is less about any specific recent posts and more about r/The_Donald’s history of coordinated attacks on other subreddits, as well as its brazen subversions of Reddit’s rules over time.
r/The_Donald has been a pain point for Reddit for years. It was created in June 2015 to discuss and promote Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and quickly became a hotbed for extreme political rhetoric. Members of the subreddit amplified the Pizzagate conspiracy theory in late 2016, and in August 2017, they promoted attendance at the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Southern Poverty Law Center published a detailed report on r/The_Donald in April 2018, highlighting the subreddit’s paranoia about “white genocide” and its support of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar, its vicious antiblack racism and anti-Semitism, and its fascination with imagining violence against the media. Still, the community was a favorite of Trump himself, who hosted a question-and-answer...