Reddit, the enormous online community-run forum, announced on Wednesday night that it was banning the white nationalist subreddit r/altright, due to “posting of personal information,” otherwise known as doxxing.
“Reddit is the proud home to some of the most authentic conversations online,” a statement provided to The Daily Beast by the company read. “We strive to be a welcoming, open platform for all by trusting our users to maintain an environment that cultivates genuine conversation and adheres to our content policy.”
It’s a major switch for the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet,” which, in the name of open dialogue, had once been loathe to ban almost anyone. It meant that Reddit hosted some of the most misogynist, and hate-spewing communities on the web.
The imposed ban indicates that the company is attempting to police its vast networks of users, particularly its most vitriolic and, in this case, potentially dangerous. This particular subreddit had earned upwards of a reported 16,000 subscribers once Donald Trump took office and often included white nationalist sentiments and dialogue—echoing the public displays of leaders of the white nationalist movement like Richard Spencer.
“We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting of personal information can get users banned from Reddit and we ask our communities not to post content that harasses or invites harassment. We have banned r/altright due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy. There is no single solution to these issues and we are actively engaging with the Reddit community to improve everyone's experience.”
This announcement comes on the heels of an open letter written to the Reddit community by founder Alexis Ohanian, published on the site on Monday night.
In it, Ohanian shared the story of his family’s immigrant background and condemned the recent executive order by President Trump which imposed a temporary ban on travel for individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
“President Trump’s recent executive order is not only potentially unconstitutional, but deeply un-American,” Ohanian wrote. “We are a nation of immigrants, after all. In the tech world, we often talk about a startup’s “unfair advantage” that allows it to beat competitors. Welcoming immigrants and refugees has been our country's unfair advantage, and coming from an immigrant family has been mine as an entrepreneur.”
(Reddit has not provided further comment on the reasoning behind the ban and Ohanian hasn’t agreed to an interview after repeated requests.)
After Ohanian’s letter was posted, The Daily Beast communicated with a moderator for the Trump-loving subreddit and asked how they thought the company’s politics would affect their space on the website. At the time, they didn’t seem to think a ban would happen.
“I don't believe it will have an effect on our subreddit,” one moderator told The Daily Beast. “As a privately owned company, Reddit is free to operate as it pleases, and this is merely a continuation of what it's already been doing. Their policy hasn't changed. As such, we will continue to abide by it to the best of our abilities.”
“The post relies on the ridiculous premise that the Constitution guarantees rights to all immigrants, aliens and non-citizens,” a moderator wrote in a Reddit private message to The Daily Beast. “How ridiculous would that be of that was true? The United States would basically be legalizing its own foreign takeover.”
Reached by private message on Reddit, a senior moderator of the atlright subreddit who referred to himself as Bill Simpson told The Daily Beast that the forum was “banned without notification or justification.”
“So much for leftist tolerance. Our moderator team enforced stricter standards of behavior than reddit requires, and our users were very prompt at reporting violations so we could ban violators and delete posts and comments that broke the rules,” he added.
Additionally, Simpson claimed that the subreddit was banned because of its recent “record monthly traffic.”
“It's clear that Reddit banned us because we were becoming very popular and spreading inconvenient truths about who's ruining our country and robbing our children of a future,” Simpson said.
“The AltRight represents tens of millions of decent White Americans who want their neighborhoods, schools, institutions, and country back. We are the decent people and we will no longer tolerate the anti-White establishment or be denied an identity.”
This is not the first time that the company has decided to intervene on a subreddit where they perceive violations of their terms of service were occurring.
In November, reddit CEO Steve Huffman edited abusive comments made about him on the popular subreddit devoted to Donald Trump, the_donald. Huffman said he later regretted the move. As of this writing, the_donald has not been shut down.
Reddit has faced criticism in the past, particularly from the Southern Poverty Law Center, for harboring racist and hateful forums. As the SPLC described it in a 2015 article, Reddit once housed a subreddit known as “CoonTown” which featured “users wondering if there are any states left that are “nigger free.””
That particular subreddit and another entitled r/Rapingwomen were shut down in 2015.
During the 2016 election, r/the_donald became an extremely valuable mecca for Trump fans and even led to the current president of the United States participating in an AMA (ask me anything) session on the site. Currently, the subreddit claims to have over 350,000 readers.
Updated at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday to add comment from the AltRight moderator.