Reddit bans pro-Trump forum after review of hate speech rules

Reddit will ban a controversial forum for thousands of supporters of US president Donald Trump from its social media platform, following a review of its content moderation policies regarding hate speech. 

The move comes as other social media platforms, including Google’s YouTube and Amazon’s Twitch, took similar actions to tackle toxic content as more companies join an advertising boycott.

Edgy discussion site Reddit, which has long cast itself as a bastion of free speech, said on Monday that it would take down the r/The_Donald forum for repeatedly violating its rules, alongside 2,000 other forums such as r/ChapoTrapHouse, which is affiliated with a leftwing podcast. The pro-Trump forum had more than 729,000 subscribers. 

“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 company said in a statement, adding that its users and group moderators had consistently promoted rule-breaking content and “antagonised us and other communities”. 

Reddit has undertaken a broad overhaul of its content moderation policies to ban “communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability”, following mounting criticism that it harbours racism, particularly by facilitating alt-right fringe groups. Ellen Pao, former Reddit chief executive, said on Twitter at the time that the company “nurtures and monetises white supremacy and hate all day long”.

After the killing of George Floyd last month sparked antiracism protests across the US, social media groups have faced renewed pressure to better police their content to prevent hate groups from stirring up racial tensions. 

An advertiser boycott against Facebook — which some brands have expanded to include other social media platforms — continued to gain traction on Monday. Adidas and its subsidiary Reebok announced they were pausing advertising on the platform plus its photo app Instagram through to the end of July “to ensure lasting change in the fight against racism”. 

Microsoft had already pulled advertising from Facebook and Instagram in the US last month and planned to expand that globally. The software and tech group is concerned about its ads being placed next to “inappropriate content”, rather than Facebook’s policies, according to Axios, which first reported the news.

They join dozens of other companies — including Unilever, Starbucks and Verizon — that are cancelling advertising on Facebook, or across social media more broadly, in the run-up to a highly polarised US presidential election in November.

Facebook, which argues that private companies should not be “arbiters of truth”, has come under fire in particular for allowing posts from Mr Trump that critics argue incite hate.

The momentum of their campaign, initially launched by a consortium of civil rights groups, knocked Facebook’s shares more than 10 per cent lower over the course of last week. 

Also on Monday, the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch banned Mr Trump’s account temporarily, citing “hateful conduct”, adding that it had removed “offending content” from its site. In particular, it flagged a rebroadcast 2015 campaign speech in which the president referred to Mexicans as “rapists”, and similar comments at his recent Tulsa rally.

YouTube said it had banned six accounts for violating its hate speech policies, including channels belonging to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, the high-profile white supremacist Stefan Molyneux and the white supremacist publication American Renaissance.

Reddit has previously made efforts to clean up the platform in a bid to bring big advertisers on board. Last year it opted to “quarantine” — or add warning labels in front of — the Trump forum after users promoted violence towards Oregon police officers.

Additional reporting by Richard Waters in San Francisco and Sara Germano in New York

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