SAN FRANCISCO — Reddit, one of many largest social networking and message board web sites, on Monday banned its greatest neighborhood dedicated to President Trump as a part of an overhaul of its hate speech insurance policies.
The neighborhood or “subreddit,” known as “The_Donald,” is house to greater than 790,000 customers who submit memes, viral movies and supportive messages about Mr. Trump. Reddit executives stated the group, which has been extremely influential in cultivating and stoking Mr. Trump’s on-line base, had persistently damaged its guidelines by permitting individuals to focus on and harass others with hate speech.
“Reddit is a spot for neighborhood and belonging, not for attacking individuals,” Steve Huffman, the corporate’s chief govt, stated in a name with reporters. “‘The_Donald’ has been in violation of that.”
Reddit stated it was additionally banning roughly 2,000 different communities from throughout the political spectrum, together with one dedicated to the leftist podcasting group “Chapo Entice Home,” which has about 160,000 common customers. The overwhelming majority of the boards which are being banned are inactive.
“The_Donald,” which has been a digital basis for Mr. Trump’s supporters, is by far essentially the most energetic and outstanding neighborhood that Reddit determined to behave in opposition to. For years, most of the most viral Trump memes that broke by to Fb, Twitter and elsewhere may very well be traced again to “The_Donald.” One video, “The Trump Impact,” originated on “The_Donald” 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 people’s 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. Trump’s tweets to refute their accuracy or call them out for glorifying violence. Snap also recently said it would stop promoting Mr. Trump’s Snapchat account after determining that his public comments off the site could incite violence.
By contrast, Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has said that it refuses to be an arbiter of content. The company said that it would allow all speech from political leaders to remain up on its platform, even if the posts were untruthful or problematic, because such content was newsworthy and in the public’s 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 that they plan to pause advertising on the social network because they were unhappy with its handling of hate speech and misinformation.
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 — whether it was video games or makeup or power-washing driveways — 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 within the identify of free speech.
That has haltingly modified over time. In 2015, Reddit introduced anti-harassment policies. Later that yr, it banned a number of subreddits that focused black or overweight individuals. In 2016, it rolled out extra anti-harassment measures and instruments. It additionally took down boards devoted to brazenly shopping for and promoting medication.
However the firm’s executives have struggled specifically with how you can deal with “The_Donald” and its noxious content material. Reddit stated individuals in “The_Donald” persistently posted racist and vulgar messages that incited harassment and focused individuals of various non secular and ethnic teams on and off its web site.
“The_Donald” has additionally closely trafficked in conspiracy theories, together with spreading the debunked “PizzaGate” conspiracy, through which Hillary Clinton and prime Democrats had been falsely accused of operating a baby intercourse trafficking ring from a pizza parlor in Washington.
Reddit stated that as of Monday, it was introducing eight guidelines that laid out the phrases individuals should abide by to make use of the positioning. These embrace prohibiting focused harassment, revealing the identities of others, posting sexually exploitative content material associated to underage youngsters, or trafficking in unlawful substances or different illicit transactions.
Whereas the positioning had already banned many of those behaviors, the newest adjustments take a more durable line on speech that “promotes hate primarily based on id or vulnerability.”
Mr. Huffman stated customers on “The_Donald” had incessantly violated its first up to date rule: “Keep in mind the human.” He stated he and others at Reddit repeatedly tried to purpose with moderators of “The_Donald,” who run the subreddit on a volunteer foundation, to no avail. Banning the discussion board was a last-ditch effort to comprise harassment, he stated.
“We’ve given them many alternatives to achieve success,” Mr. Huffman stated. “The message is evident that they haven’t any intention of working with us.”
Many Republican lawmakers have accused social media corporations of censoring conservative viewpoints on their sites. Mr. Huffman said that banning “The_Donald” was not an attempt to specifically target conservatives.
“Absolutely not, full stop,” he said.
The new bans follow the resignation this month of Alexis Ohanian, one of Reddit’s co-founders, from the company’s board of administrators. Mr. Ohanian, who stated he had been moved by the protests over the demise of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who was killed in police custody final month, requested to get replaced on Reddit’s board with a black candidate.
“I’m penning this as a father who wants to have the ability to reply his black daughter when she asks: ‘What did you do?’” Mr. Ohanian, who’s married to the tennis star Serena Williams, stated in a blog post on the time. “To everybody preventing to repair our damaged nation: Don’t cease.”
Michael Seibel, the chief govt of the Silicon Valley start-up incubator Y Combinator and an African-American, has replaced Mr. Ohanian on Reddit’s board.
Reddit executives stated the positioning stays a spot that they hope could be a discussion board for civil political discourse sooner or later, so long as customers play by its guidelines.
“There’s a house on Reddit for conservatives, there’s a house on Reddit for liberals,” stated Benjamin Lee, Reddit’s normal counsel. “There’s a house on Reddit for Donald Trump.”