Reddit has a very specific policy prohibiting people from threatening bodily harm or attempting to incite violence. It uses this policy as the basis for banning individual accounts, discussion threads, and whole subreddits. Basically if you cross the line, you’re gone. Unless you’re a member of the r/TheDonald subreddit, in which case the rules don’t apply to you.
The past 24 hours has seen a surge in posts on r/TheDonald calling for citizen violence over the current political kerfuffle in Oregon – yet there’s no evidence that Reddit is doing anything about it.
In essence, the Democrat-led assembly in Oregon decided to push through a cap and trade climate resolution that Conservatives disagree with. Rather than follow the law, GOP lawmakers fled the state to avoid being forced to do their jobs. Governor Kate Brown, exercising the state’s legal right, directed Republicans to return under penalty of a $500 fine for each day they remained in dereliction and told law enforcement to escort those lawmakers in violation of state law back to work. Hardcore alt-right supporters see this as a call to arms, and local militia groups have been quick to respond.
Ironically when a similar situation happened in Minnesota with Democrats refusing to show up for a vote, Republican lawmakers accused them of abandoning democracy and expected the police to handle the problem. According to a 2011 report from Journal Sentinel:
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said that Democrats in his house were “not showing up for work” and that he wanted law enforcement to bring them back.
Today though, the situation is far more tense. Reportedly more than 600 militia members, many armed, have threatened to descend on the Oregon state capitol prompting a shutdown out of fear of violence. And, as usual, members of r/TheDonald are declaring this the moment in modern history when Conservatives should exercise their Second Amendment right which, they believe, means the use of violence to stand up to what they deem a tyrannical government.
So what does Reddit actually say about threats of violence? Here’s the rule straight from Reddit‘s community guidelines:
Do not post content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or a group of people.
It seems pretty cut-and-dry, but apparently the literal interpretation of these rules doesn’t apply to r/TheDonald. Advertising your readiness to murder law enforcement officers for enforcing the law, as an example, is fine on r/TheDonald:
Oregonian here. Hopefully all State Police in Oregon refuse, hes serious. No problems shooting a cop trying to strip rights from Citizens. If he calls for help I’d come.
Advocating for riots in cities where the majority of citizens disagree with your politics is also allowed on r/TheDonald:
Fourth generation Oregonian here. I have seen my beloved state turn into North California. The only way to get it back is to burn Portland and Eugene to the ground.
The comments continue like that throughout the various threads discussing the situation in Oregon. One user claimed it was time to use the “ammo box” since the soapbox and ballot box weren’t working in Oregon. And several were explicit in saying that rifles were the only way to fix the problems with Oregon’s Democrat-led government.
We’re not trying to imply that all Conservatives, Republicans, or Donald Trump supporters are violent. But it’s no secret that r/TheDonald, one of Reddit‘s most toxic communities, appears to have its namesake’s ability to flagrantly flaunt rules as entirely optional. There’s been dozens of articles written about the group’s penchant for getting away with anything, including this one from TNW’s own Bryan Clark, wherein he opines:
The most problematic content on Reddit isn’t a forum that shows people dying, it’s the incendiary subreddits like r/QAnon, r/The_Donald, and r/beatingwomen that weaponize free thought under the guise of open discussion.
This isn’t anything new, at least not on social media. But r/TheDonald seems to lower the intellectual bar for Trump-supportership to a simple, stupid dogma: people who support Donald Trump are individuals worthy of respect; people who don’t are just a faceless mob of enemies. The permeating theme throughout the subreddit is that Trump can’t save the US alone, true Conservatives are going to have to get their hands dirty. It’s in places like these that the Dylan Roofs and Brenton Tarrants of the world are radicalized.
Reddit isn’t standing up for free speech here, especially considering it bans other subreddits for less. It’s normalizing calls for violence as expressions of Conservatism. This is something that should bother Conservatives who don’t believe, for example, a police officer should be shot for enforcing the law.
The right to spread hate and violence on social media isn’t covered by the first amendment: it’s not the government that should stop a subreddit from inciting violence, but Reddit itself. The company should exercise its protected right not to associate with people it doesn’t want to. And no decent person or company should have anything to do with anyone who thinks those who disagree with their politics, in a democracy, should be murdered.
We reached out to Reddit to ask, once again, why the rules don’t seem to apply to r/TheDonald. We’ll update this article if we receive a response.
H/t: Media Matters