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Reddit bans 'The_Donald' forum amid broad social media crackdown

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06/29/2020 | 08:56pm EDT
FILE PHOTO: Reddit mascots are displayed at the company's headquarters in San Francisco

By Elizabeth Culliford and Katie Paul

Social media site Reddit on Monday shut down r/The_Donald, a forum which long served as a popular online home base for fans of President Donald Trump, saying it violated the site's hate speech rules.

Other sites also conducted high-profile sweeps: Amazon.com Inc's live-streaming platform Twitch temporarily banned Trump's official channel, saying it violated Twitch's policy on hateful speech, while Google's YouTube suspended six leading white nationalist accounts.

Reddit Chief Executive Steve Huffman said in a post detailing changes to the company's content policies that communities and users promoting hate would be barred. Reddit was banning about 2,000 subreddits, the majority of which were inactive, he said.

In response to the actions by Reddit and Twitch, a Trump campaign spokesman directed people to Trump's campaign app "to hear directly from the president." He did not directly address the sites' actions.

Huffman said earlier this month that Reddit would strengthen its content policy, after Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from the firm's board and former CEO Ellen Pao criticized its handling of r/The_Donald.

Reddit had "quarantined" the forum last year, citing threats of violence.

The new list of banned subreddits also included the left-wing r/ChapoTrapHouse, which Huffman said consistently hosted rule-breaking content. It had an average of 42,949 daily active users, according to Reddit.

Reddit's list showed r/The_Donald had an average of 7,780 daily active users, down from its heyday around the 2016 presidential election when it regularly drew hundreds of thousands of visitors each day.

Only about 200 of the banned forums listed by Reddit had more than 10 daily users.

"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," Huffman said.


Social media companies' content policies have been in the spotlight this month, as Facebook Inc faced an employee walkout and an ad boycott over its hands-off handling of inflammatory posts amid nationwide anti-racism protests and ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Earlier this month, Twitter Inc began placing some of Trump's messages behind warning labels, while Snap Inc said it would no longer promote Trump's account in its Discover section.

YouTube said Monday it was terminating six accounts widely credited with building support for far-right views online over hate speech violations, including channels run by Richard Spencer, Stefan Molyneux and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Molyneux tweeted in response that YouTube had suspended "the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known." Spencer said he would appeal the decision.

Twitch, a site primarily used for video game livestreaming which Trump joined in October, said it had identified two streams from Trump's account that violated its policies.

One was a rebroadcast of a 2016 rally in which Trump said Mexico was sending rapists to the United States. The other was of his rally in Tulsa earlier this month, when he hypothesized about a "very tough hombre" breaking into a woman's house.

A Twitch spokeswoman said the platform had told "the president's team" last year that there were no exceptions on the site for political or newsworthy content that broke its rules.

In May, Twitch announced a new advisory council to improve safety, focusing on areas like harassment and protection of marginalized groups.

Last week, it said it would begin issuing permanent suspensions as part of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment involving Twitch streamers.[L1N2CW0LE]

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford, Katie Paul; Additional reporting by Neha Malara; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)

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