Infiltration Welcomed With Open Arms

Due to its extensive amount of hate, as well as Reddit’s past of banning/quarantining hate subreddits, r/The_Donald should be banned.

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An online faction of extreme hate has gathered on the popular online forum board Reddit, as well as the less mainstream forum board 4chan over the past decade. This group, known popularly as the alt-right, jumped into the real world last August, as a large number of hateful redditors gathered in Charlottesville to protest against liberals, minorities, Jews, and the removal of the Confederate statues. The combination of many subreddits, mini-forums on Reddit, fueled the hateful rally that ended in the death of Heather Heyer and the injuries of several others. On The_Donald, one of the subreddits, a post informing users of the rally was kept in major focus for the week prior to the event.

Though they already had power, subreddits such as MillionDollarExtreme, a fan page of the now-canceled, hate-filled show by that name flourished. Similar subreddits like TheGreatAwakening, devoted to the following of the presumed-to-be fake government official, Q, grew and allowed people that would’ve otherwise been shunned from society to disseminate hate among the online masses. After years of letting these subreddits grow and infect people with hate, Reddit finally quarantined (a form of banning which all but locks the subreddit from gaining new members) a large number of these hate subreddits on September 27, 2018.

However, there is a sole survivor. The_Donald, a subreddit devoted to President Donald Trump, is extremely hateful and maintains its status as a breeding ground for right-wing extremists. Before Reddit repeats its mistakes, it should quarantine The_Donald.

The_Donald is infested with hate. The comments and posts that commonly rise to the top of the subreddit are hateful toward Muslims. A top comment chain on one of the top posts of the subreddit on December 12 reads, “[User A]: How about we start a “C*oexist” campaign in the countries with a 99 percent Muslim population? [User B]: Absolutely haram. [User C]: I would start a gofundme so liberals can go be liberals in Syria.” These comments appear on a post meant to make fun of feminism and egalitarianism. This begins to crack the surface of the demonization of Muslims and other minorities found quite often on the subreddit.

Another top post describes sidewalk barriers as “the five pillars of Islam.” A comment replying to that post describes Muslims as pedophiles and animals. This stunning display of ignorance is grounds for banning by itself. As the alt-right is a group of people with real-life, harmful manifestations like Charlottesville, they can not be ignored and blindly accepted.

The CEO of Reddit, Steve Huffman, is cognizant of the problem rooted in The_Donald, where some posts calling out Huffman about banning a subreddit about the famous conspiracy theory Pizzagate have been edited by the CEO himself. When being called out on a Reddit Q&A that showed examples of The_Donald’s hate speech, Huffman gave his reasoning for the ongoing existence of the subreddit: “The_Donald is a small part of a large problem we face in this country—that a large part of the population feels unheard, and the last thing we're going to do is take their voice away.” Allowing hate to fester into violence like the death of Heather Heyer and defending with free speech is a generally weak approach. Social media companies cannot be sued for free speech and the impacts that this kind of speech is resulting in are deadly. Huffman is allowing deadly hate to continue to perpetuate throughout his website and defending himself by saying that it should continue because the hate-filled people feel unheard a reckless mindset. If the unprotected speech is resulting in death, it ought to be regulated.

Furthermore, Mr. Huffman hasn’t avoided the punishing of hate subreddits before. Reddit has a history of quarantining many anti-Jewish, anti-black, and anti-decency subreddits. Reddit has also banned subreddits that housed self-described involuntary celibates, better known as incels, for spreading mass misogyny and fostering a disconnect from society. Reddit has also quarantined an infamous subreddit, CringeAnarchy, that was known for spreading hate for the sake of hate.

If Reddit and Mr. Huffman can acknowledge the problems that The_Donald brings to their website and ignore the rules and precedents of punishment the company has set, they are setting a dangerous example and allowing hate to fester. Allowing The_Donald to stand as a bastion of hate could very well lead to another Charlottesville, another gathering of the hatred that we have sworn to leave behind us. Reddit must ban, or at the very least quarantine, The_Donald.