Reddit has “quarantined” a popular forum of supporters of US President Donald Trump, saying its users repeatedly violated platform rules by promoting violence against law enforcement and public officials.
In an announcement posted to the /r/The_Donald subreddit on Wednesday, Reddit said it was restricting access to the forum “due to significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of the Reddit Content Policy.”
“Most recently, we have observed this behavior in the form of encouragement of violence towards police officers and public officials in Oregon,” the statement said.
With nearly 770,00 subscribers, the subreddit is the largest pro-Trump community online.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2017
Trump himself has previously used the forum to communicate with his supporters and it was the source of a video which the US president tweeted showing himself wrestling to the ground a figure whose face was superimposed with the CNN logo.
Reddit is the sixth most visited website in the United States and the 21st most visited in the world. The hugely popular platform operates like an online bulletin board, allowing users to anonymously form or join communities around shared interests, such as a sports team or hobby.
Reddit uses quarantines to restrict forums that, while not prohibited, have been classified as offensive or disturbing. Other political subreddits that have been quarantined include ones called “Debate the Alt Right” and “Full Communism.”
Reddit told The Times of Israel: “We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit. As we have shared, we are sensitive to what could be considered political speech, however, recent behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy. As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit.”
A quarantine does not block or delete the forum from the site, but requires visitors to see a warning message and to explicitly opt-in to view it.
The move by Reddit followed an article published by watchdog group Media Matters for America, which claimed users in the pro-Trump subreddit had “repeatedly issued calls for violence” against officials in Oregon embroiled in a political showdown about climate change legislation.
Media Matters cataloged numerous comments from users that it said violated Reddit’s policy against content that “encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm.”
According to the left-leaning watchdog, users on “The Donald” called for violence to prevent Oregon’s governor from tracking down Republican state lawmakers who went into hiding to prevent a pivotal climate change vote in the Democrat-controlled state senate.
Oregon state troopers have been given authorization by Democratic Governor Kate Brown to track down the absentee legislators. The Republican lawmakers have yet to be found, and are thought to be hiding in Idaho.
One of the comments in subreddit highlighted by Media Matters read: “Hopefully all State Police in Oregon refuse… No problems shooting a cop trying to strip rights from Citizens.”
Another user commented: “Rifles are the only way we’re going to get any peace in our lives ever again.”
Media Matters said other comments indicated that Oregon’s self-styled militia were prepared to use violence to protect the Republican lawmakers.
The quarantine came days after police locked down Oregon’s statehouse amid fears of violence against lawmakers from the right-wing militia that was rallying in the city of Salem. Oregon militia groups were previously involved in deadly clashes with police in 2016 after they occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In response to the quarantine, moderators of “The Donald” denied they tolerated calls for violence, and complained that Reddit restricted users’ access “without warning.” The post went on to describe the community as being “very pro-law enforcement” and claimed “the left would like to see us gone.”
But Reddit says the moderators failed to adequately police their subreddit and they had removed tools that allowed users to report problematic content.
According to the BBC, Reddit warned the moderators the forum would be permanently banned if “this situation continues to escalate.”
Trump has yet to comment on the quarantine. The US president has repeatedly criticized social media platforms for what he claims to be an anti-conservative bias and for trying to rig the 2020 elections.
Twitter said Thursday that tweets from public figures which break their rules prohibiting threatening violence against a person or group will now carry a warning, in a move widely thought to be a response to some of Trump’s posts on the platform.
Coinciding with the quarantine of the “The Donald” forum, Reddit this week also banned a number of forums associated with an already-banned subreddit that was accused of spreading racist and anti-Semitic imagery.