By Elizabeth Culliford
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Social media site Reddit restricted access to a major forum for supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump, citing threats of violence against police and public officials.
While it was not banned, users accessing the forum, or subreddit, are now met with a message asking: “Are you sure you want to view this community?” before they click to enter.
Quarantined subreddits also are not included in searches or recommendations.
With about 755,000 subscribers, r/The_Donald is one of the largest online forums for Trump supporters, describing itself as “a never-ending rally dedicated to the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.”
As a candidate in 2016, Trump held an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on the subreddit in which he fielded questions from members.
A note from Reddit administrators, posted by a moderator in the r/The_Donald subreddit, said they had observed repeated rule-breaking behavior and, recently, encouragement of violence against police and public officials in Oregon. The note was later deleted from the subreddit.
“We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit,” a Reddit spokeswoman said in a statement provided to Reuters. “We are sensitive to what could be considered political speech, however, recent behaviors including threats against the police and public figures is content that is prohibited by our violence policy.”
On Monday, the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America listed messages posted on the subreddit that allegedly called for violence in Oregon after Democratic Governor Kate Brown called for police to bring back Republican state senators who fled the state so climate change legislation could not be passed.
Members of the subreddit responded angrily to the move, with some accusing the platform of bias against conservatives.
Trump has also complained, without evidence, about alleged anti-conservative bias on social media platforms like Twitter Inc. He repeated those complaints on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday, adding that tech companies Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc should be sued.
Trump’s comments came on the same day that the White House also announced that it would host a social media summit on July 11 with digital leaders.
On May 15, the administration launched a website and urged the U.S. public to report instances of political bias on social media platforms.
On Twitter, user @CarpeDonktum, whose memes have been re-posted by Trump, said the action taken by Reddit happened on the day of the first Democratic presidential debate: “Coincidence? Absolutely not. A community of over 700,000 Patriots.. suddenly silenced…”
Reddit outlines its quarantine policies on a page that says such action is taken when there are communities “that, while not prohibited, average redditors may nevertheless find highly offensive or upsetting.”
Subreddits can appeal to have quarantines lifted by showing they have changed their community moderation practices.
Reddit, which stopped short of banning the forum, also said that it had taken action against individual users as well as the subreddit.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; editing by Kenneth Li and Bill Berkrot)