On Friday, Reddit joined this week’s response to violent online rhetoric as spearheaded by President Donald Trump and removed its “r/donaldtrump” community, the site’s largest existing community dedicated specifically to Trump. Visiting any of that community’s pages now leads to a simple message pointing to Reddit’s rules about “inciting violence,” which starts by saying, “Do not post violent content.”
Without a citation of specific Reddit threads or a formal announcement from Reddit administrators clarifying the move, users may be left wondering about the exact reason for the removal. It’s possible, for example, that the community page was punished for reposting Trump’s speeches and statements from earlier in the week, which alternated between false claims about election fraud, calls to action by his followers in response to his claims about fraud, or sympathetic statements about the seditionists who stormed the US Capitol on Wednesday.
While searching through r/donaldtrump archives is a bit unwieldy (owing to how such archives are maintained at sites like archive.is), cursory searches point to the community hosting pre-protest conversations about the January 6 protest, usually with titles pointing to Trump’s direct request that his followers from across the nation attend. The issue may also have come from multiple claims at r/donaldtrump shortly before its shutdown about Wednesday’s seditionists being disguised as “antifa,” despite a majority of Capitol building invaders being identified with clear links to white nationalist organizations and calls for a violent January 6 protest.
At the hour of its ban, r/donaldtrump, which was created in 2011, had approximately 52,800 “members” (meaning those logged-in users who elected to add the channel to their default “home” page interface). That number pales compared to the nearly 800,000 members who had subscribed to r/the_donald before it was shut down in August 2020—and demonstrates that the latter community’s closure seems to have worked in a “deplatforming” way in terms of reducing visibility for hateful, rule-breaking content.
Other online platforms are still scrambling to play catch-up in dealing with hosted and promoted conspiracy theories and calls to action by Trump supporters ahead of the January 6 siege on the US Capitol. The hours following the siege saw critics heap “told you so” responses about clear, weeks-old calls to violent action publicly posted to platforms like TikTok, Parler, Facebook, and Twitter.
[Update, 8:11 p.m. ET: Later on Friday, the gaming-focused chat app Discord took an action very much in line with Reddit’s: It shuttered its “The_Donald” text and voice chat channel. This group was targeted in part because of clear ties to the former Reddit community of the same name (along with a spinoff site started after its Reddit ban) and had been previously moderated upon for ToS violations through 2020.
In a statement issued to Ars Technica, Discord cited its “zero-tolerance policy against hate and violence of any kind on the platform, or the use of Discord to support or organize around violent extremism.” While noting a lack of direct connection between the aforementioned January 6 riots, the company chose to ban the channel in question “due to its overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence, plan an armed insurrection in the United States, and spread harmful misinformation related to 2020 U.S. election fraud,” according to the statement.]