“Political speech continues to be safe,” the site's CEO said. “But all communities, including our political communities, have to abide by our policies”

By Adam Carlson
June 29, 2020 03:41 PM
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Reddit on Monday said it was banning two popular and controversial groups from the site — the pro-Donald Trump forum The_Donald and a forum for fans of the left-wing political podcast Chapo Trap House — as part of a larger reworking of its content policies designed to "explicitly address hate."

The_Donald, which has no official tie with the president or his campaign, had long been the site of harassment and incitements to violence, according to previous Reddit statements and experts who have followed the group, known as a subreddit.

Before it was banned, The_Donald described itself as "a never-ending rally" for the president and had nearly 800,000 members, according to The Washington Post. It was started in 2015, and Trump participated in a question-and-answer session there in 2016.

Reddit last year "quarantined" the group's content behind a content warning, according to technology news site The Verge.

In recent months, The_Donald's members have reportedly shifted to another website.

In Monday's announcement of their new policies, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman wrote that "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."

Huffman wrote that, according Reddit's rules under its new policy, "communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned."

The second rule of the policy "ties together our previous rules on prohibited behavior with an ask to abide by community rules and post with authentic, personal interest," Huffman wrote. "Debate and creativity are welcome, but spam and malicious attempts to interfere with other communities are not."

The_Donald, he wrote, "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."

"Though smaller, r/ChapoTrapHouse was banned for similar reasons," he wrote. That subreddit had more than 150,000 members, statistics show.

About 2,000 subreddits were banned with these new policies, Huffman wrote Monday, though only around 200 of those had more than 10 daily users.

“Political speech continues to be safe,” he told reporters, according to The Verge. “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.”

The company's general counsel echoed that position as well, according to the Post.

"There’s a home on Reddit for supporters of Donald Trump," Benjamin Lee said, adding: "We’re not the ones who shut down the community. The moderators are the ones who shut down that community."

Reddit is one of the most-visited websites in the country, built around a series of forums designed for sharing all manner of content: links to articles, discussion posts, photos and more.

It has previously faced scrutiny and backlash for its historically lax attitude toward what is posted, including stolen nude images. "Involuntary pornography" was banned there in early 2015, three years after sexual content about minors was explicitly banned — and a decade after the website was founded.

Addressing proposed changes to the site's content policy in 2015, Huffman told The New York Times: “We cannot turn a blind eye to it like we have in the past. Our responsibility is to our community so they can express themselves on Reddit.”

Separately, its policy changes this week will likely fuel ongoing arguments from partisans — particularly conservatives — that their posts are discriminated against by liberal social media companies.