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How Reddit kicked off a day of bans for Trump and the far right

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The news: Early on Monday, Reddit banned r/The_Donald, a once-notorious pro-Trump forum, for repeated rule-breaking. CEO Steve Huffman announced that it was just one of 2,000 subreddits banned by the site as it institutes rule changes designed to make the platform less accommodating to hateful and abusive communities.

The other news: Later in the day, live-streaming video service Twitch announced that it had temporarily suspended President Trump’s account for rebroadcasting comments about Mexican immigrants that broke its “hateful conduct and harassment policies.” 

The other other news: YouTube, meanwhile, followed by banning several far-right and racist creators, including white supremacists David Duke, Richard Spencer, and Stefan Molyneux. 

Better late than never? Monday’s bans were preceded by policy changes at Twitter and Facebook that shifted, to a degree, how the platforms handle rule-breaking behavior by accounts linked to the president and the far right. r/The_Donald was once a core organizing point for the pro-Trump internet, with a record of bringing extremist content in front of bigger and bigger audiences. In late 2016, Huffman limited the reach of the subreddit after it figured out how to get the site’s algorithms to promote pro-Trump content. By then, r/The_Donald members were already involved in spreading the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, and volunteer moderators had asked Huffman to do more to fight the abuse and harassment their communities faced from r/The_Donald members. 

But will it do anything? In reality, r/The_Donald had been nearly dormant for months, as the Washington Post noted—and most of the other banned subreddits were tiny or inactive. A few others were notable, however, including r/ChapoTrapHouse, associated with the left-wing podcast of the same name; and r/gendercritical, a “feminist” subreddit with more than 60,000 members that regularly promoted transphobic views.

Still, the swift sequence of bans and suspensions was a moment reminiscent of August 2018, when conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was banned from most mainstream social-media sites over the space of a few days. Traffic to his Infowars website dropped significantly as a result, and it is now around a third of where it was in 2018, according to online traffic monitor SimilarWeb.

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