Republican lawmakers are setting their sights on Reddit, the so-called “front page of the Internet,” which is home to r/The_Donald, the world’s largest conservative community dedicated to President Donald Trump.
Reddit previously placed the community under “quarantine” status amid complaints from the site’s liberal users that the forum was becoming too influential on the platform, with much of its content hitting the front page of the site.
The Verge reported in 2019 that Reddit had quarantined the subreddit for “violent comments” following a report on Media Matters that some of its members had made calls for violence against police in Oregon.
“We are clear in our site-wide policies that posting content that encourages or threatens violence is not allowed on Reddit,” said a Reddit spokesperson at the time. “As we have shared, 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. As a result, we have actioned individual users and quarantined the subreddit.”
The platform is now under newfound scrutiny from Republicans following President Donald Trump’s executive order to hold social media platforms like Twitter accountable for their censorship of political speech.
Fox News reports that in an open letter to Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, several Republican lawmakers including Matt Gaetz and Jim Banks suggested that they would be taking action against Reddit for censoring the pro-Trump community.
“I am writing to you to express my disappointment over Reddit Inc.’s decision to ramp up its censorship of the pro-Trump subreddit, r/The_Donald,” they wrote. “In October, I urged you to reconsider Reddit’s ban of r/The_Donald from its main page and search results—a practice known on Reddit as a ‘quarantine’. I described how since the quarantine, r/The_Donald has largely complied with sitewide content policies, while numerous left wing subreddits have violated Reddit’s policies more egregiously than r/The_Donald ever did. Instead of reversing r/The_Donald’s quarantine, or applying its policy in a politically neutral manner, Reddit decided to censor r/The_Donald more stringently.”
The “subreddit” is currently under indefinite quarantine, and has seen the forced removal of several of its volunteer moderators by Reddit administrators without justification. The site typically allows for its subreddits—even its largest ones—to run unmolested by site staff. The only moderators who remain on r/The_Donald are users handpicked by Reddit’s administrators to run the community.
The lawmakers describe Reddit’s actions as a “progressive bludgeon” used to silence conservatives, and that they would consider taking legal action against Reddit despite their “principled belief in the free market.”
In contrast to Facebook and Twitter, Reddit has largely escaped scrutiny from both the President and much of the media despite having higher metrics than Twitter—up to 430 million visitors a month.