Once known as a bastion of free speech online, Reddit became openly hostile to conservative views in recent years, especially pro-Trump views. A series of company actions drove many pro-Trump voices off the social discussion and ranking site that bills itself as the “front page of the internet.” And that was even before Reddit officially banned r/The_Donald subreddit in June 2020.
The company claimed the community (once as big as 800,000) was banned for violating harassment, hate speech and content manipulation policies. It purged 7,000 subreddits for hate speech in 2020. Critics argued this was targeted censorship because left-wing harassment, threats, doxxing and hate speech happen in many unbanned subreddits. In May 2020, Republican lawmakers threatened to take action over Reddit’s use of a “progressive bludgeon.”
As the seventh most popular U.S. website, Reddit boasted 430 million active monthly users in late 2019. Although initially supporting free speech, Reddit has turned to cracking down and suppressing it. It has banned climate skepticism from the science subreddit, Reddit CEO edited his critics comments and the site punished pro-Trump users. During the presidency of Donald Trump, Reddit’s censorship dramatically worsened. It presaged r/The_Donald ban in 2019, by quarantining it (removing it from the site search) and suspending users for upvoting content in quarantined communities.
The $3 billion San Francisco tech company’s value grew in 2019. Reddit raised $300 million to expand internationally, half of which came from Chinese pro-censorship company Tencent. Tencent manages the “Great Firewall of China,” blacklisting websites (including Reddit) and other information in the communist nation. A few months after the cash infusion, Reddit’s COO Jen Wong sang the praises of the Chinese censors.
- CEO Steve Huffman talking about the 2019 quarantine of r/The_Donald subreddit: “We’re not sure quite how to ban it yet, or how to justify this, but this is not what we want users seeing. This is not what we want to be representing to the world. So we’re going to put them on this like, list of sanctions.”
- In 2016, Huffman admitted he “abused” his power and violated Reddit policies when he edited comments in r/The_Donald subreddit. When members criticized Huffman, he switched out his name in scathing comments for the group leaders’ names.
- Reddit shielded bias by Pinterest, by suspending users who posted a Project Veritas video exposing Pinterest’s suppression of pro-lifers and Christians.
- Reddit threatened users who upvote “policy-breaking content” in “quarantined” communities with temporary and permanent suspensions.
- Former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao lobbied for Twitter to ban Trump. She also advocated banning r/The_Donald subreddit because “they’re just wrong.”
- Reddit mods banned climate change skepticism from the science subreddit in 2015.