One of President Trump's most ardent online fan clubhouses, the subreddit called "the_donald" on Reddit, has been once-and-for-all shut down as Monday, with the SF-based social media company citing multiple policy violations.
The forum "the_donald" has been around since long before the election of 2016, and became a popular gathering place for Trump's most meme-happy true believers over the last four years. It had over 790,000 members/followers as of today before Reddit took it offline for good, as the New York Times reports. Alas, it looks the self-described "never-ending rally dedicated to the 45th President of the United States" has indeed come to an end.
"Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people," said co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman in a statement. "‘The_Donald' has been in violation of that."
The always quick-to-offend, quick-to-attack users of r/the_donald have run afoul of Reddit's policies before — notably last summer when the subreddit was "quarantined" after members had been found glorifying and inciting violence against Oregon lawmakers and its governor over a dust-up over a climate change bill that led to a Republican walkout. But as the Times notes, "the_donald" had built a reputation for being a safe space for the MAGA set that even had Trump's ear at times — Trump campaign director Brad Parscale tweeted in 2016, when he was the first campaign's digital director, that he visited the subreddit "daily."
Lately, according the company, users on r/the_donald had repeatedly been violating rules against hate speech and harassment.
"The_donald" was at the center of a controversy following Trump's election in November of that miserable year in which Huffman was accused by users of removing and altering comments in the forum without leaving any trace that they had been edited. In the completely childish incident, Huffman, who goes by username "spez" on the site, was being called a "cuck" by users, and others were commented "fuck spez" a lot. Huffman later admitted he had gone in and changed the name from "spez" to several of the moderators' own usernames.
Huffman apologized, but the whole incident stemmed from another, since-banned subreddit, r/pizzagate, where users were gleefully sharing the conspiracy theory — which has not died four years later!! — that Democrats including Hillary Clinton are part of a secret pedophilia cabal headquartered at a D.C. pizza restaurant. Users on r/pizzagate were calling Huffman a "pedo" at the time.
One month later, in December 2016, "the_donald" was officially sequestered away from Reddit's main feed, and therefore its most upvoted posts were no longer eligible to appear on the r/all scroll.
"The United States is more divided than ever, and we see that tension within Reddit itself," Huffman said at the time, vowing to remove "the most toxic trolls" from the platform. Now, after four years of fighting with moderators on "the_donald," Huffman has had enough.
"We’ve given them many opportunities to be successful," Huffman tells the Times. "The message is clear that they have no intention of working with us."
In addition to shutting down "the_donald" at long last, Reddit on Monday announced the banning of some 2,000 other subreddits, the majority of which are inactive, per the Times.
Reddit has around 130,000 active subreddits these days, up from around 10,000 back in 2012 when Gawker unmasked one of its most notorious and vile trolls, violentacrez. Violentacrez turned out to be a programmer and suburban husband living in Arlington, Texas with a penchant for creating disgusting subreddits like one, called "creepshots," devoted to clandestine photos of women's body parts, and one called "jailbait" devoted to sexualized pictures of underage girls. He was the epitome of Reddit's free-for-all, free-speech-at-all-costs ethos, which is something that Reddit and many other platforms have had to rethink in recent years. Hate crimes, mass shootings, and other real-life violence has been inspired by and glorified on Reddit's forums — and there's probably no greater act of cultural violence against half the country than the election of Donald Trump, which was celebrated loudly and often on "the_donald."
This is just the latest blow to Trump and his supporters by a tech platform in recent weeks. Twitter began cracking down on Trump's infamous flouting of the platform's rules earlier this month, and now even Facebook says it will label the president's misleading or dishonest posts with fact-check links, and it will ban posts that are aimed at suppressing voting, even from the president. YouTube also removed a series of alt-right and white-supremacist channels today, and Twitch just killed off Trump's channel for content that was deemed "hateful" — even though all of it was just rebroadcasts of his rallies.