On Monday, social networking website Reddit banned ‘r/The_Donald’, one of its largest pro-Trump subreddits (a community forum), citing a violation of its updated policy on hate speech.
Apart from ‘r/The_Donald’, Reddit has banned over 2000 communities that include “ChapoTrapHouse”, “DarkHumorAndMemes” and “GenderCritical” among others. Reddit maintains that a majority of communities that were banned on Monday were inactive, and just around 200 of them had more than 10 Daily Active Users.
The move comes weeks after Reddit’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned and urged the board to fill his seat with a black candidate, following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. “I believe resignation can actually be an act of leadership from people in power right now. To everyone fighting to fix our broken nation: do not stop,” Ohanian wrote in a blog post.
Why has the ‘r/The_Donald’ subreddit been banned?
‘r/The_Donald’, which had more than 750,000 members, was banned for violating rules 1,2 and 8 of Reddit’s content policy.
“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. The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average (Rule 1), antagonized us and other communities (Rules 2 and 8), and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations. Until now, we’ve worked in good faith to help them preserve the community as a space for its users—through warnings, mod changes, quarantining, and more,” Reddit announced on Monday.
The rules state the following:
Rule 1: “Remember the human. Reddit is a place for creating community and belonging, not for attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people. Everyone has a right to use Reddit free of harassment, bullying, and threats of violence. Communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.”
Rule 2: “Abide by community rules. Post authentic content into communities where you have a personal interest, and do not cheat or engage in content manipulation (including spamming, vote manipulation, ban evasion, or subscriber fraud) or otherwise interfere with or disrupt Reddit communities.”
Rule 8: “Don’t break the site or do anything that interferes with normal use of Reddit.” This rule prohibits users from introducing malicious code onto Reddit and making it difficult for anyone else to use the website due to a user’s actions including blocking sponsored headlines, creating programs that violate Reddit’s API rules or assisting anyone in misusing the website.
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What led Reddit to change its content policy?
The change in Reddit’s content policies comes following protests by redditors who called into question the website’s commitment towards standing up against hate and supporting black lives, especially during the Black Lives Matter protests.
The change in the content policy has also come at a time when advertisers such as Unilever, Verizon, North Face and Ben and Jerry’s among others have boycotted advertising on Facebook, creating pressure on the social media giant to tweak its content moderation policies ahead of the 2020 Presidential elections.
In an open letter to Reddit’s co-founder Steve Huffman and the board of directors published on the website following Floyd’s death, some redditors demanded that a sitewide policy against racism, slurs and hatespeech be undertaken, along with a pro-active banning of “hate-based” communities and users and hiring of more minorities and women in leadership roles among other measures.
“The problem of Reddit’s leadership supporting and providing a platform for racist users and hateful communities has long been an issue. Nearly six years ago, dozens of subreddits signed the original open letter to the Reddit admins calling for action. While the Reddit admins acknowledged the letter and said it was a high priority to address this issue, extremely little has been done in the intervening years,” the open letter mentioned.
On June 2, Reddit’s former CEO Ellen Pao tweeted, “I am obligated to call you out: You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don’t get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long”.
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