Dem Senator Ron Wyden Pushed For 'The Donald' Subreddit To Be Censored

Chris Menahan
Jun. 28, 2019

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who in the past made a name for himself championing internet freedom, earlier this month pressured Reddit CEO Steve Huffman to censor the popular pro-Trump subreddit "The Donald" for potentially "inciting" so-called "hatred."

During a joint AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Huffman on June 5, Wyden wrote:
Mr Huffman has the First Amendment right to support whatever content he chooses to, as does any private business. And other users have the right to choose whether or not they want to associate with a site that hosts that kind of content.

From what I am told, The_Donald is home to messages that cross the line toward inciting the hatred that is eroding our democracy and it would be good to see Mr. Huffman and Reddit to do more work to moderate such behavior. [Emphasis added]

A groveling Huffman responded by thanking Senator Wyden for his comment and saying they "take cues from the government when we think about our policies."
Thank you, Senator.

As it relates to r/the_donald specifically, we watch them closely, and we do our best to hold them to the same standards and policies as we do all communities. Before we action any community, we also speak to moderators regarding rule breaking behaviors. To that end, we have removed a number of their moderators over the years for not moderating to our standards, and we wouldn’t hesitate to do this again, or take additional steps, should their behavior warrant it. While they can be offensive and antagonistic to the rest of Reddit, we have not found them to be in consistent violation of our content policies.

Yes, we do see individual posts and comments that cross the line, but the offending content also gets removed as we ask and expect, and we also take action against those individual users and accounts with suspensions or full bans from the site as appropriate.

I wish there was a solution that was as simple as banning the community—certainly it would make some things easier—but the reality is that banning a large political community that isn’t in violation of our policies would be hugely problematic, not just for Reddit, but for our democracy generally. Political speech is the most protected form of speech in the United States, and we are sensitive to that and take cues from the government when we think about our policies.

I know this isn’t the answer many of you are looking for, but as we continue to deliberate and evolve our thinking, my hope is that you appreciate the complexity of this situation and understand our approach. [Emphasis added]
Though Huffman defended their political speech, Reddit went on to censor The Donald around three weeks later by "quarantining" their subreddit to prevent outsiders from viewing their content and suppress their reach.

The Donald, which along with 4chan's /pol/ forum was found to be the most powerful meme factory on the internet, was censored right before the start of the Democratic debates.

Though the usual refrain you hear from libertarian morons is that "private companies" can censor whoever they want, the reality is their censorship decisions are often being influenced by government threats.

As Reuters reported earlier this week, the Orwellian future this Big Tech/Government partnership is creating can be seen with Facebook announcing they're teaming up with the government of France and will be ratting out their own users so they can be criminally prosecuted for whatever the government deems "hate speech."

[Header image by JD Lasica.]

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