If you want to see what President Trump’s most ardent fans are thinking and meme-ing, there is only one place on the internet to get the full experience. The online forum known as r/The_Donald considers itself a “never ending rally” dedicated to President Trump. Or, at least it was until it was “quarantined” by its host site Reddit.
For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer on Reddit. Reddit is a website where users can post pictures, videos, articles, or links to anything else they want. Depending on how well these are appreciated, other users can either “upvote” or “downvote” the original post. Reddit then looks at the balance of upvotes to downvotes and decides how popular a post is. More popular posts head to the top of the page, giving them even more visibility.
While there is a “front page” of the site—where every post is sorted—most users hang around specific topics on Reddit. There are different pages (or “subreddits”) for pretty much every topic you can imagine. Everything from pictures of beautiful places on earth, little-known facts, or fan pages for a beloved artist. So, naturally, there is a subreddit for President Donald J. Trump: r/The_Donald.
How It All Started
One of Reddit’s more popular types of posts is when a celebrity, person of note, or someone with an interesting story answers live questions from people on the site. The format is known as “Ask Me Anything” (AMA), and such events can easily garner thousands of comments. Nothing energized the r/The_Donald subreddit more than when President Trump himself did an AMA in July 2016. This was a significant moment. Just months before the 2016 election, the president chose to host his AMA in r/The_Donald.
A month earlier, the Orlando nightclub shooting had occurred. As users tried to comment and share links about the tragedy, Reddit moderators intervened and removed news stories and posts. Once it became clear that the conversation was being censored on news subreddits, discussion migrated towards r/The_Donald and other forums.
While the largely popular r/news subreddit lost thousands of subscribers and viewers while it stayed silent on the tragedy, more than a dozen posts from r/The_Donald reached the front page of Reddit as more users subscribed to the community. This was the first sign of users losing confidence that Reddit was an impartial website.
The r/The Donald subreddit quickly grew into a veritable online “hometown” for Trump supporters and “Make America Great Again” superfans, complete with its own brand of meme humor and often tongue-in-cheek posts mocking “the libs.” It was in short order the place to be if you loved the president.
Reddit’s ‘Quarantine’ Of r/The_Donald Is Hypocritical
In response, Reddit modified their algorithm to prevent r/The_Donald’s posts from being appropriately indexed and reaching the front page. Now here we are again, dealing with another censorship issue, as the subreddit is the target of a quarantine.
The Reddit administrator’s imposition of a “quarantine” on r/The_Donald might at first not seem like such a big deal. It is. Having your subreddit quarantined on Reddit means users need to manually “opt-in” to view the website, after being greeted by an intimidating page that makes it appear as if what lies beyond is heinous or illegal.
Quarantining a subreddit also makes it so that Google and Reddit will not display the subreddit in any search results or recommendations. This can be crippling. For most subreddits, it’s a poison pill that few survive.
Reddit claimed the quarantine was due to users “posting content that encourages or threatens violence” targeting law enforcement in Oregon. However, the same standard is not applied to the r/politics subreddit which advertises itself as a section to discuss “news and U.S. politics.”
Of course, on r/politics the discussion can lean left and only left; any opinion that is even slightly right of center is marginalized or censored. The content found on r/The_Donald, while perhaps shocking to some, is often humorous and can only be misconstrued as an endorsement of violence if you have a far-left agenda and ulterior motives.
Reddit’s ‘Standards’ Are Inconsistent and Ill-enforced
There are two reasons I believe this to be a phony quarantine with a sole purpose to quell political dissent. Firstly, any person can post in any subreddit under any username. In this vein, you or I can make threatening posts on a subreddit of our choice to give the impression that a certain community is geared towards or even rooted in violence. There is no way of knowing whether these “calls to violence” were so-called “Never Trumpers,” radical social justice warriors, or assorted angry leftists masquerading as his supporters to vilify Trump supporters and the r/The_Donald subreddit.
Secondly, posts promoting violence against dissenting voices frequently fester in the r/politics subreddit while Reddit turns a blind eye. The double standard would be hilarious if it were not so dangerous. By silencing conservative voices, Reddit increasingly showcases left-leaning opinions and discourages the free-flowing diversity of ideas that has flourished on the internet for so long. If Reddit continues on this path, all that remains is a giant echo chamber for liberal ideology.
For instance, in reference to Republican state lawmakers refusing to return to Oregon for a vote, one post on r/politics called for “a shootout between law enforcement and a state senator who absolutely refuses to do his job.” The post was heavily upvoted, a representation of support from forum users. Where was the outrage from Reddit’s bosses? If this doesn’t sound like a “post encouraging violence,” then what is? Are the moderators asleep at the wheel or just willfully blind?
By allowing these posts to stay up and garner further upvotes, Reddit highlights its grotesque hypocrisy. Violence isn’t “against site policy,” it’s allowed as long as it is directed against a particular political bloc (in this case, against Republicans, conservatives, and their respective viewpoints).
There Is a Clear Bias on Reddit Against the Right
The curious case of r/politics and other similar subreddits highlight Reddit’s clear bias against right-leaning voices. Left-leaning users are allowed to spread propaganda and openly endorse violence, while users on the right are afraid to post even a simple meme for fear of being targeted.
Even worse, it is difficult for users to stumble upon r/The_Donald since Reddit blacklisted it from r/all, making it impossible for posts from the subreddit to reach the front page of the website. Simply because Reddit disagrees with the community’s political stance, it believes the messages of r/The_Donald should be contained and “quarantined” as much as possible.
The quarantining of r/The_Doanld is a blatant attempt by a private company to prevent the president’s base from organizing. By furthering the narrative that Trump voters are a fringe “basket of deplorables,” Trump supporters are being deliberately pushed into obscurity.
The leftist administrators at Reddit want the public to buy the narrative that r/The_Donald supports violence and that right-leaning voices are dangerous. In truth, the group that we should be afraid of is the small section of the Democratic Party that appears to have no problem spreading violent propaganda (recall Tim Kaine’s rallying cry for Democrats to “fight in the streets”), as well as censoring ideas and opinions they dislike.
Compared to the r/politics subreddit, r/The_Donald appears tame. In the politics subreddit, pro-Democrat and anti-Republican sentiment is allowed to foment and become an axis for the hive mind to attack the president. While it’s fine for there to be left-wing and right-wing sections of the website, Reddit’s quarantine of r/The_Donald represents its clear slant against the right-wing perspective.
Posts on the r/politics subreddit that praise Trump are immediately buried and downvoted. If a post even slightly leans towards supporting the president, it is quickly moved to the “off-topic” section, never to be seen again. There appears to be no place for actual political discourse in the Orwellian r/politics subreddit, which is now just a mouthpiece for the Democratic National Committee.
Unfortunately, many who view front-page posts on the r/politics subreddit take these opinions as mainstream when they are actually representative of a radical, far-left community. Take a look at r/politics today and you will see exactly what I’m talking about. There is zero diversity in opinion.
The Donald Trump Subreddit Survives, For Now
Despite the deck stacked against it, the quarantine of r/The_Donald hasn’t diluted users’ support for the president. It has deepened the subreddit’s resolve. Despite Reddit requiring an “opt-in” action to view the subreddit’s content, it has gained thousands of followers. Users have rallied behind its moderators in the fight to lift the containment policy.
Reddit’s hypocritical and selective targeting of a conservative forum is exactly one of the issues that prompted President Trump to hold a Social Media Summit. Censorship has a chilling effect. It discourages people from sharing their opinion and taking part in the American tradition of free political discourse.
One of the most pressing issues of our time is how private organizations on the internet have begun to censor political speech. There is validity to the argument that private institutions can impose whatever rules they want over their users—however draconian they may be. We can all agree certain images and topics don’t have a place on the internet, just as everything isn’t permitted in a public setting. However, once Reddit and Google begin censoring and monitoring the free speech of conservatives while hiding behind breaches against their personal “code of conduct,” they prevent Americans from participating in a free and open political discourse.
Americans today need to get their hands on as much varied and critical information as possible. When Reddit stifles the views of only one side, it’s the whole nation that suffers.