With three-quarters of a million subscribers, r/The_Donald has been a gleefully pro-fascist eyesore on the larger Reddit community, which, for reasons no one seemed able to justify, had evaded any sort of meaningful enforcement of site-wide policies. Well, the needle finally budged yesterday, and all it took was anonymous yahoos threatening to shoot cops.
Set up three years ago to unquestionably parrot the agenda of then-candidate Donald Trump, the members of TD, as it’s often abbreviated, have been involved in just about every kind of misbehaviour one can get up to on Reddit. It’s known for users happy to invade the space of other communities, xenophobic memes that reference brutal dictatorships, and a moderation team that largely looks the other way. Some of those moderators even—according to chat logs leaked to Gizmodo several years ago—made death threats against Reddit employees and their pets. Despite the overwhelming demands of users to ban the community for its abuses, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman all but gave his blessing for TD to persist.
The truly farcical situation in the US state of Oregon appears to have changed all that.
For those who have not been following the news closely, a cap-and-trade bill meant to combat climate change turned into a slapstick routine when all 12 of Oregon’s Republican senators abandoned their posts, refusing to show up to the statehouse to vote on the thing. This prompted Governor Kate Brown to dispatch state police to, you know, find them—which then reportedly prompted right-wing militia wingnuts to claim they’d “protect” the senators via guns and stuff. If the Blue Lives Matter brigade pivoting towards a shooting-cops agenda is confusing, I’m sorry to say your expectations for ideological consistency were too high going in. Regardless, among those threatening open warfare were the esteemed commenters of The Donald.
Attempting to visit r/The_Donald now displays the following message:
Are you sure you want to view this community? This community is quarantined. It is restricted due to significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of the Reddit Content Policy. Most recently the violations have included threats of violence against police and public officials. As a visitor or member, you can help moderators maintain the community by reporting and downvoting rule-breaking content. Are you certain you want to continue?
Such warnings do not usually detail the specific infractions that led to a subreddit becoming quarantined. The community r/whitenationalism, for instance (which, yes, is still on Reddit for some reason) merely states that the community “is dedicated to shocking or highly offensive content,” and provides a link for individuals seeking to leave hate groups.
As a now-quarantined community, TD won’t appear in searches, recommendations, or feeds for non-subscribers, severely limiting the community’s reach. Quarantined subreddits also, according to Reddit itself, “generate no revenue” for the site.
“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 behaviours including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy,” a Reddit spokesperson told Gizmodo in a prepared statement. “As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit.” Reddit declined to explain its decision to quarantine rather than ban The Donald outright.
Featured image: Screenshot: Reddit