Case Study Donald Trump
Video streaming platform Twitch temporarily suspended President Donald Trump's channel and social media site Reddit banned a longtime forum used by his supporters in separate actions Monday aimed at curtailing hateful content that come as the tech industry grapples with its handling of the president.
Reddit CEO Steve Huffman announced in a post that the r/The_Donald forum, which boasted over 790,000 subscribers as of earlier Monday, has been shuttered for frequent rule-breaking, antagonizing the company and other communities and for failing to “meet our most basic expectations.” Huffman said it’s one of about 2,000 newly banned forums — known as subreddits — including at least one prominent progressive community, as part of a broader crackdown aimed at “closing the gap between our values and our policies to explicitly address hate.”
“All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith,” Huffman wrote. “We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity,” Reddit said the ban took effect at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
Twitch, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant Amazon, confirmed on Monday that it has separately suspended Trump's campaign channel on the platform for posting videos that ran afoul of its rules against content that “promotes, encourages or facilitates discrimination, denigration, objectification, harassment or violence” based on an individual’s identity.
A company spokesperson said the channel violated its rules by rebroadcasting a video of Trump's 2015 event kicking off his presidential candidacy, in which he referred to Mexican immigrants as “rapists." At the time, Trump said, "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," adding, "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
Twitch said a separate video of Trump’s latest campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., in which he describes a hypothetical scenario where “very tough hombre is breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away” also violated those policies.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh responded to the two companies' actions by urging voters who want to "hear directly from the President" to download the campaign's app. A White House spokesperson did not offer comment.
Twitch's and Reddit's actions comes as larger rival Facebook faces a tsunami of criticism from Democrats and civil rights advocates and praise from Republicans for declining to take action against a post by Trump that threatened violence against protesters decrying police violence and racial injustice. Facebook’s decision triggered internal strife at the social media behemoth and sparked a major advertising boycott that has seen brands, including Verizon and Coca-Cola, pull messages from the platform.
Amid the intense scrutiny, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Fridaythat the company is expanding its policies against calls to incite violence and voter suppression and may add labels to some offending posts by political leaders, such as Trump, that run afoul of its rules.
The incidents have created an inflection point for Facebook and other social media giants, which are also under pressure to address racial inequities amid the recent wave of protests against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s killing while in police custody in Minnesota. Twitter has drawn praise from liberal lawmakers and rebukes from Trump and his conservative allies for adding fact-checking and warning labels to a series of inflammatory Trump tweets.
But the debate about whether to penalize rule-breaking content from the president and his supporters is also dragging in a host of other social media platforms.
Reddit already dealt a major blow to the pro-Trump subreddit last year by severely restricting its visibility and functionality over “repeated rule-breaking” through a process known as quarantining. The community has long been plagued by racist, xenophobic and other derogatory content, and Reddit has faced public pressure for years for not doing more to rein in conduct on the channel.
As part of Monday’s move, Huffman said Reddit is also expanding its policies against hateful conduct, which he said will now explicitly state that “communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.” Reddit’s policies up until now explicitly banned users and communities from inciting violence, but not hateful conduct based on people’s identity.
Huffman said Monday that Reddit is also banning the r/ChapoTrapHouse subreddit, a popular left-wing community with over 160,000 subscribers, for “consistently” hosting rule-breaking content and because their moderators “have demonstrated no intention of reigning in their community.” Huffman said of the 2,000 communities banned, a vast majority were inactive, with only 200 of them currently having more than 10 active daily users.
“To be clear, views across the political spectrum are allowed on Reddit — but all communities must work within our policies and do so in good faith, without exception,” Huffman said.