The influential pro-Trump community broke the rules on harassment and targeting, said Reddit, which also banned other groups.
SAN FRANCISCO â Reddit, one of the largest social networking and message board websites, on Monday banned its biggest community devoted to President Trump as part of an overhaul of its hate speech policies.
The community or âsubreddit,â called âThe_Donald,â is home to more than 790,000 users who post memes, viral videos and supportive messages about Mr. Trump. Reddit executives said the group, which has been highly influential in cultivating and stoking Mr. Trumpâs online base, had consistently broken its rules by allowing people to target and harass others with hate speech.
âReddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people,â Steve Huffman, the companyâs chief executive, said in a call with reporters. ââThe_Donaldâ has been in violation of that.â
Reddit said it was also banning roughly 2,000 other communities from across the political spectrum, including one devoted to the leftist podcasting group âChapo Trap House,â which has about 160,000 regular users. The vast majority of the forums that are being banned are inactive.
âThe_Donald,â which has been a digital foundation for Mr. Trumpâs supporters, is by far the most active and prominent community that Reddit decided to act against. For years, many of the most viral Trump memes that broke through to Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere could be traced back to âThe_Donald.â One video, âThe Trump Effect,â originated on âThe_Donaldâ in mid-2016 before bubbling up to Mr. Trump, who tweeted it to his 83 million followers.
Social media sites are facing a reckoning over the types of content they host and their responsibilities to moderate and police that content. While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and others originally positioned themselves as neutral sites that simply hosted peopleâs posts and videos, users are now pushing them to take steps against hateful, abusive and false speech on their platforms.
Some of the sites have recently become more proactive in dealing with these issues. Twitter started adding labels last month to some of Mr. Trumpâs tweets to refute their accuracy or call them out for glorifying violence. Snap also said it would stop promoting Mr. Trumpâs Snapchat account after determining that his public comments off the site could incite violence.
On Monday, the streaming website Twitch suspended Mr. Trumpâs account for violating its policies against hateful conduct. Mr. Trumpâs channel had rebroadcast one of his campaign rallies from 2015, in which he denigrated Mexicans and immigrants, among other streams. Twitch removed the videos from the presidentâs account.
YouTube also said on Monday that it was barring six channels for violating its policies. They included those of two prominent white supremacists, David Duke and Richard Spencer, and American Renaissance, a white supremacist publication. Stefan Molyneux, a podcaster and internet commentator who had amassed a large audience on YouTube for his videos about philosophy and far-right politics, was also kicked off the site.
Facebook, the worldâs largest social network, has said it refuses to be an arbiter of content. The company said it would allow all speech from political leaders to remain on its platform, even if the posts were untruthful or problematic, because such content was newsworthy and in the publicâs interest to read.
Facebook has since come under increasing fire for its stance. Over the past few weeks, many large advertisers, including Coca-Cola, Verizon, Levi Strauss and Unilever, have said they plan to pause advertising on the social network because they were unhappy with its handling of hate speech and misinformation.
Andrea Hickerson, associate dean of the College of Information and Communications at the University of South Carolina, said the growing actions by social media companies would help cut down âon the noise and unwarranted confusion around the truth.â
âThere is a lot of popular rhetoric about âthe mediaâsâ negative impact on civil discourse, but now social media companies are acknowledging that some of its own users are the problem,â she said.
Reddit, which was founded 15 years ago and has more than 430 million regular users, has long been one corner of the internet that was willing to host all kinds of communities. No subject â whether it was video games or makeup or power-washing driveways â was too small to discuss. People could simply sign up, browse the site anonymously and participate in any of the 130,000 active subreddits.
Yet that freewheeling position led to many issues of toxic speech and objectionable content across the site, for which Reddit has consistently faced criticism. In the past, the company hosted forums that promoted racism against black people and openly sexualized underage children, all in the name of free speech.
That has haltingly changed over time. In 2015, Reddit introduced anti-harassment policies. Later that year, it banned several subreddits that targeted black or obese people. In 2016, it rolled out additional anti-harassment measures and tools. It also took down forums dedicated to openly buying and selling drugs.
But the companyâs executives have struggled in particular with how to handle âThe_Donaldâ and its noxious content. Reddit said people in âThe_Donaldâ consistently posted racist and vulgar messages that incited harassment and targeted people of different religious and ethnic groups on and off its site.
âThe_Donaldâ has also heavily trafficked in conspiracy theories, including spreading the debunked âPizzaGateâ conspiracy, in which Hillary Clinton and top Democrats were falsely accused of running a child sex-trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington.
Reddit said that as of Monday, it was introducing eight rules that laid out the terms that users must abide. Those include prohibiting targeted harassment, revealing the identities of others, posting sexually exploitative content related to underage children, or trafficking in illegal substances or other illicit transactions.
While the site had already banned many of these behaviors, the latest changes take a harder line on speech that âpromotes hate based on identity or vulnerability.â
Mr. Huffman said users on âThe_Donaldâ had frequently violated its first updated rule: âRemember the human.â He said he and others at Reddit repeatedly tried to reason with moderators of âThe_Donald,â who run the subreddit on a volunteer basis, to no avail. Banning the forum was a last-ditch effort to contain harassment, he said.
âWeâve given them many opportunities to be successful,â Mr. Huffman said. âThe message is clear that they have no intention of working with us.â
Many Republican lawmakers have accused social media companies of censoring conservative viewpoints on their sites. Mr. Huffman said banning âThe_Donaldâ was not an attempt to specifically target conservatives.
In a statement on Monday, Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for Mr. Trumpâs re-election campaign, did not address Redditâs move but directed people to Mr. Trumpâs app or to text the campaign directly.
The new bans follow the resignation this month of Alexis Ohanian, one of Redditâs co-founders, from the companyâs board of directors. Mr. Ohanian, who said he had been moved by the protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who was killed in police custody last month, asked to be replaced on Redditâs board with a black candidate.
âIâm writing this as a father who needs to be able to answer his black daughter when she asks: âWhat did you do?ââ Mr. Ohanian, who is married to the tennis star Serena Williams, said in a blog post at the time. âTo everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: Do not stop.â
Michael Seibel, the chief executive of the Silicon Valley start-up incubator Y Combinator and an African-American, has replaced Mr. Ohanian on Redditâs board.
Reddit executives said the site remained a place that they hoped could be a forum for civil political discourse in the future, as long as users played by its rules.
âThereâs a home on Reddit for conservatives, thereâs a home on Reddit for liberals,â said Benjamin Lee, Redditâs general counsel. âThereâs a home on Reddit for Donald Trump.â
News – Reddit, Acting Against Hate Speech, Bans âThe_Donaldâ Subreddit