Reddit said Monday it was banning about 2,000 subreddits including r/The_Donald, where supporters of President Donald Trump had gathered, in a crackdown the tech company said was aimed at communities that promote hate.
“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,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a post on the site.
The announcement came on the same day that Twitch, a live streaming service, temporarily banned Trump for “hateful conduct.” The company, which is owned by Amazon, said in a statement that politicians had to follow the same rulebook for using its site as anyone else, and it cited Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants.
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said in response to the Twitch suspension that people should download the campaign’s app.
Reddit had previously placed r/The_Donald behind an extra page that required users to click through, a restriction the company referred to as a “quarantine.” But even after that limited punishment, the subreddits moderators “have refused to meet our most basic expectations,” the company said.
Many of the 2,000 other banned subreddits were dormant or had few daily users, Reddit said. Only about 200 had more than 10 daily users.
“Ultimately, it’s our responsibility to support our communities by taking stronger action against those who try to weaponize parts of Reddit against other people,” Huffman, also a co-founder of the company, wrote.
The announcement by San Francisco-based Reddit comes four months before the presidential election and as tech companies are increasingly at the center of political debates — often ones that anger politicians and spark discussion of government regulation.
Last month, Twitter placed fact-check notices on tweets from Trump, leading the president days later to issue an executive order raising the prospect that social media companies could lose certain legal protections.
Facebook has been generally more accommodating of Trump but two weeks ago removed some of his ads for featuring a symbol used by the Nazi party in World War II.
Twitch said Monday that two comments made by Trump on its service violated its rules against hateful conduct: a rebroadcast of past Trump comments when he called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” and a video from a rally where Trump spoke about “tough hombres” committing break-ins.
“Like anyone else, politicians on Twitch must adhere to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. We do not make exceptions for political or newsworthy content, and will take action on content reported to us that violates our rules,” Twitch said in a statement. Any hateful conduct is considered a zero-tolerance violation, the company added.
The Trump-focused Reddit community had been almost entirely abandoned in recent months. Only one new post has appeared in the last 100 days, as users were told to flee to a pro-Trump site that cloned Reddit’s functionality and design, but promised more lax moderation.
The community was a notorious meeting hub for conspiracy theories ahead of the 2016 election and was embraced by the Trump campaign. Then-candidate Donald Trump conducted an "Ask Me Anything" question-and-answer session on the subreddit in the run-up to the 2016 election. Over 2,000 accounts were banned by the subreddit’s moderators for asking questions deemed negative about the future president. Trump’s digital director Dan Scavino said on Twitter in 2016 that he monitored the subreddit “daily.”
While many tech platforms started out with a hands-off approach, Reddit stood out as a platform where hate speech thrived in numerous communities, some of which actively antagonized communities of color.
The company made some changes to its rules to limit harassment but remained hesitant to crack down on hate speech. In 2018, when asked if the site would allow racial slurs and hate speech, Huffman said that “on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so."
Now, a new page on Reddit’s help section includes an expanded definition of hateful activities and examples that would violate its rules.