Trump supporters are furious because their favourite website is kicking them out for 'hate speech'

Joanna Taylor
Tuesday 30 June 2020 11:30
news
( Angelo Merendino / Getty Images )

Reddit has banned a major forum dedicated to Donald Trump because of its users's repeated use of hate speech.

R/The_Donald was "highly influential" in stoking Trump's supporters and was one of the most active forums on Reddit with 790,000 subscribers by the time it was banned.

It is also known to Trump, who answered users's questions on the forum as a presidential candidate in 2016.

The ban comes as a result of new rules aimed at addressing hate speech on the platform.

One of these rules is that "communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned".

Users of r/The_Donald were notorious for targeting and harassing other Reddit users who voiced disagreement with their right-wing views.

In an official statement, a Reddit spokesperson said:

All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith. We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity. 

The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations.

Until now, we’ve worked in good faith to help them preserve the community as a space for its users—through warnings, mod changes, quarantining, and more.

Reddit banned around 2,000 forums aside from r/The_Donald, although only around 200 of these had more than ten daily active users.

These included r/TheChapoTrapHouse, dedicated to the popular left-leaning podcast and r/gendercritical which was criticised for transphobia.

R/The_Donald has been sanctioned by Reddit before. In 2019 the forum was quarantined for "repeated rule breaking behaviour" including inciting violence.

The ban comes as the website attempts to make positive changes in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Reddit's chief executive Steve Huffman told the Verge:

I have to admit that I've struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company's values around common human decency. 

Political speech continues to be safe. But all communities, including our political communities, have to abide by our policies. And while we will do everything we can to help bring them in line, if they fail in doing so they are not allowed on Reddit.

Recently, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the website's board, urging the company to replace him with a Black executive.

Ohanian welcomed Reddit's updated rules on hate speech.

Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao had also called on the company to make changes, responding to their initial show of solitary with Black Lives Matter by saying "you should have shut down the_donald".

Trump's staff have admitted to monitoring r/The_Donald and lifting content from it for years.

In 2016 Trump's digital election campaign director Brad Parscale said he visited it every day.

Images and videos tweeted by Trump have also been traced back to r/The_Donald by journalists on several occasions.

Politico reported in 2019 that Trump's social media manager Dan Scavino said the forum "has helped craft some of Trump’s most memorable social media moments".

While banning r/The_Donald was welcomed by Reddit's senior executives and many of the website users, there has of course been pushback.

People are accusing Reddit of stifling "free speech" by banning the forum.

Hate speech is, in fact, protected by the First Amendment of the US constitution. But the constitution regulates the government, not private companies like Reddit.

You do have to wonder how it's possible to silence the 'silent majority'....

R/The_Donald has also been linked to the spread of several high-profile conspiracy theories like pizzagate.

A forum dedicated to this conspiracy, aimed at Hillary Clinton, was set up by r/The_Donald users.

Chief executive Steve Huffman has resisted calls to ban r/The_Donald before, even in the wake of reports that revealed many posts on the forum originated in Russian "troll farms".

But Reddit isn't the only social media company to decide to take a stand against the president and his most ardent supporters.

Recently Twitter began adding fact checking tabs to Trump's tweets.

Snapchat also removed Trump-related content from their Discovery Tab, while streaming service Twitch banned the channel from which Trump's team livestreamed his campaign rallies.

With a US election approaching in November, it remains to be seen whether a clamp down on hate speech across social media will affect his ardent supporters as they seek to campaign for Trump's re-election online.

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