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 edgy discussion site, 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”. 

The move is part of a broader overhaul by Reddit of its content moderation policies to ban “communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability”. It comes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last month, as social media groups come under renewed pressure to better police their content to prevent hate groups from stirring up racial tensions. 

Separately on Monday, an advertiser boycott against Facebook continued to gain traction, with Adidas and its subsidiary Reebok announcing 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”. 

“Racist, discriminatory and hateful online content have no place in our brand or in society,” Adidas said in a statement. It joins dozens of companies including Unilever, Starbucks and Verizon that are cancelling advertising on Facebook, and in some cases 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 the 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. 

Earlier this month Reddit said it planned to update its policies following mounting criticism that it harbours racism, particularly by facilitating alt-right fringe groups, for example. 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”.

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 toward Oregon police officers.

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.

Additional reporting by Sara Germano in New York