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Reddit Has 'Quarantined' Popular Pro-Trump Forum Over Violent Threats

Reddit has restricted access to a popular pro-Trump community forum over threats of violence directed toward officials and police in Oregon, Reddit announced on Wednesday.
Screenshot by NPR
Reddit has restricted access to a popular pro-Trump community forum over threats of violence directed toward officials and police in Oregon, Reddit announced on Wednesday.

Reddit, the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet," is restricting a forum that is wildly popular among some of President Trump's core fans.

Officials with Reddit said Wednesday that a community on the message board called The Donald, which has around 750,000 followers and is known for its provocative content, is being "quarantined" over violations of its content policies.

Those violations, the company said, include threats of violence directed toward police and public officials in Oregon, where the Democratic governor has ordered the state police to look for Republican lawmakers who had fled the state in protest of a climate change bill.

The action against the so-called subreddit does not outright ban the forum, but it does warn visitors about the violations before accessing the messages and restricts how content from the community is shared across the site.

"We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit," a spokesman for the site told NPR. "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."

The move is the latest instance of an online site attempting to strike a balance between free expression and curbing violent hate speech, as public pressure builds for sites and social media companies to clean up inflammatory content.

YouTube this month removed thousands of videos with white supremacist and other extremist content.

Even sites seemingly far away from partisan politics are grappling with the issue. Popular knitting and crocheting site Ravelry this week banned pro-Trump views on its site.

Back at Reddit, the forum the company punished describes itself as "a never-ending rally dedicated to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump," though experts who have monitored the forum's content have said it has been a platform in which misogynistic, anti-Islam and white nationalist rhetoric is commonplace.

A meme President Trump tweeted last year depicting him as a professional wrestler closelining a man with a CNN logo superimposed on his head, which the president shared with the hashtag "FraudNewsCNN," first appeared in the forum. And Trump himself answered questions in the community group, known on Reddit as an AMA, or "ask me anything," when he was the Republican nominee for president in 2016.

On Wednesday, moderators of the forum tweeted, in response to the quarantine, that Reddit had "totally suppress" the community "on "the eve of the first Democratic debates."

Popular themes on the subreddit on Wednesday, besides news of the quarantine, included a photo with a disparaging message of U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe, whom Trump had criticized for refusing to visit the White House, a message celebrating Fox News' ratings and a post attempting to undermine E. Jean Carroll, the author who recently claimed Trump sexually assaulted her.

The moderator framed the action as Reddit attempting to muzzle the community's users.

"They already largely censored The_Donald from reaching the front page, but apparently that wasn't enough. So they began looking for any reason to quarantine us," a moderator of the forumtweeted.

Reddit says it has around 330 million active monthly users, making it the fifth most-visited site on the Internet.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.