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Reddit quarantined pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald over threats to police and lawmakers

It's been a bad week to be a Donald Trump supporter on the internet. Just a few days after knitting and crocheting social network Ravelry announced that it would ban content that supports the president, Reddit quarantined its biggest pro-Trump community. The subreddit r/The_Donald has effectively been isolated from the rest of Reddit over "threats of violence against police and public officials."

The issues for The_Donald arose earlier this week when the community took to talking about the ongoing controversy over environmental legislation in Oregon. Democratic legislators in the state are attempting to pass a bill that would require businesses to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans oppose it, but don't have enough votes to reject the bill so they opted instead to go into hiding to prevent the vote from happening. After Oregon Governor Kate Brown ordered state troopers to bring the Republican lawmakers back, far-right militia groups took up arms and promised to protect the Senators and keep law enforcement from bringing them back.

Enter The_Donald, which threw its support behind the militia and called for violence, both against the police officers sent to retrieve the Republican senators and against lawmakers who are attempting to pass the climate bill. A series of comments captured by Media Matters before being removed show some of the threats made by members of The_Donald. "Oregonian here. Hopefully all State Police in Oregon refuse," one user wrote. "No problems shooting a cop trying to strip rights from Citizens. If he calls for help I’d come." Another said “None of this gets fixed without people picking up rifles.” One user, apparently anticipating a prolonged war against elected officials and law enforcement, wrote, "Everyone needs to start getting into shape, sharpening up your marksmanship and learning the ins and outs of all your fire arms. Stock upon that ammo too.”

Reddit via Media Matters
Reddit via Media Matters

It's worth noting that in Oregon, the Senate, House of Representatives and Governorship are all controlled by Democrats, who won election as recently as November 6, 2018. The state allows online voter registration and conducts its elections via mail-in ballots that eliminate the need for early and absentee voting efforts. It has one of the highest voter turnouts in the country. The call to arms from The_Donald is not because the state is failing to carry out the will of its citizens, but rather the will of The_Donald.

The_Donald has put Reddit in a bit of an uncomfortable position for years now. The community of more than 750,000 people unabashedly supports the president and his agenda and regularly teeters on the brink of the type of conspiratorial thinking that plagues the alt-right and QAnon followers. The type of content that typically populates The_Donald doesn't particularly pair well with Reddit overall. According to Statista, 41 percent of Reddit users identify themselves as liberal while just 21 percent consider themselves to be conservative. Because of the fervent supporters in The_Donald, content from that community is regularly pushed to Reddit's "front page," a place that collects all of the most liked stories across the disparate platform.

That will no longer be the case. With The_Donald currently under quarantine, it will no longer appear in any of Reddit's feeds unless people are subscribed to it. It also will have advertising removed so it won't generate revenue and its content will be excluded from search results and recommendations. Essentially, unless you are a subscriber to The_Donald, are linked to it directly or specifically go looking for it, you won't be exposed to it.

While the community will be roped off from the rest of Reddit for the time being, it's possible that The_Donald will return. Communities are allowed to appeal quarantines and can have the punishment removed if they provide "detailed accounting of changes to community moderation practices" and successfully enforce those changes for at least one month.