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Reddit quarantines Trump subreddit r/The_Donald for violent comments

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Reddit has placed the controversial Donald Trump-focused subreddit r/The_Donald behind a quarantine screen after “repeated” misbehavior that includes inciting violence. A moderator posted an explanatory message from Reddit, which has asked moderators to make it clear that “violent content is unacceptable” on the forum. The move comes two days after Media Matters for America noted that r/The_Donald members were supporting violent attacks on Oregon police and other public officials.

“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 behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy. As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit,” said a Reddit spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

Media Matters for America pointed out posts where r/The_Donald members fantasized about or encouraged violence related to Oregon’s recent climate change vote where Republican lawmakers fled the state Senate to prevent a climate change bill from passing, one of them even implying that he would respond to any police action with violence. r/The_Donald members posted comments like “none of this gets fixed without people picking up rifles” and “[I have] no problems shooting a cop trying to strip rights from Citizens.” The posts were later removed.

The Reddit post describes the quarantine as the result of repeated rule-breaking, calling out r/The_Donald’s recent “encouragement of violence” against Oregonian officials.

Over the last few months we have observed repeated rule-breaking behavior in your community and an over-reliance on Reddit admins to manage users and remove posts that violate our content policy, including content that encourages or incites violence. Most recently, we have observed this behavior in the form of encouragement of violence towards police officers and public officials in Oregon. This is not only in violation of our site-wide policies, but also your own community rules (rule #9). You can find violating content that we removed in your mod logs.

As we have discussed in the past, and as detailed in our content policy and moderator guidelines, we expect you to enforce against rule-breaking content. You’ve made progress over the last year, but we continue to observe and take action on a disproportionate amount of rule-breaking behavior in this community. We recognize that you do remove posts that are reported, but we are troubled that violent content more often goes unreported, and worse, is upvoted.

r/The_Donald has been censured for rule-breaking in the past. In 2016, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said the site would hide some posts from the subreddit, preventing them from making it to the front page. But its political relevance and popularity have made it a difficult target. Huffman later called it “a small part of a large problem we face in this country — that a large part of the population feels unheard, and the last thing we’re going to do is take their voice away.”

Reddit long resisted banning or quarantining subreddits, even ones explicitly devoted to white supremacy or other hate content. But it’s changed that policy in recent years. It banned forums related to the QAnon conspiracy theory in 2018, and it’s quarantined or purged other far-right subreddits.

r/The_Donald, for its part, hasn’t been banned. The quarantine is a largely symbolic gesture. In Reddit’s words, “visitors to this community will see a warning that requires users to explicitly opt-in to viewing it. This messaging reminds users of the importance of reporting rule-breaking content.” It will be reevaluated if the moderators “unambiguously communicate to your subscribers that violent content is unacceptable.”