New Mexico r/conspiracy

Molly Butler / Media Matters

Research/Study Research/Study

Calls to violence are appearing on the conspiracy subreddit over a gun order from New Mexico’s governor

Update (9/18/23): All but one of the posts that Media Matters reported in this piece now say “That Comment Is Missing” or have been replaced by text that says “[ Removed by Reddit ].”

Users on the “r/conspiracy” subreddit, a prominent message board for conspiracy theorists, have repeatedly issued calls for violence in response to New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issuing a temporary ban on carrying guns in public in parts of the state. In response to the order, users on the subreddit suggested that the governor’s order is “how you get assassinated”; suggested that someone should “use[] their gun” to stop the order; called for the governor to be “hung for treason” or “tar[red] and feather[ed]”; threatened “civil war”; and called for militias in the state “to be mobilized.” This violent rhetoric is on the subreddit despite Reddit’s policy barring content that “encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual (including oneself) or a group of people.”

  • The r/conspiracy subreddit has contributed to the spread of misinformation and extremism for years

  • The conspiracy subreddit, which has two million members, regularly contributes to the spread of conspiracy theories. As its name suggests, the subreddit is known for regularly spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation, such as claiming that multiple mass shootings were staged and spreading a conspiracy theory that was dubbed “Pizzagate 2.0.” It was also the “adopted home of Pizzagate theorists after Reddit shut down r/pizzagate.” [Reddit, accessed 9/12/23; Media Matters, 8/25/22; Twitter/X, 7/24/19; The Verge, 1/11/17]

  • In particular, r/conspiracy played a major role in spreading a conspiracy theory that an online furniture company was involved in human trafficking. The subreddit played a significant role spreading the baseless conspiracy theory that the company Wayfair was trafficking children. The false claims forced investigators at the Department of Homeland Security to “pause active investigations to sort out what was happening with Wayfair,” but they ultimately found “no evidence to support any of the allegations.” However, The Washington Post reported that “the company hired armed security at several fulfillment centers after an onslaught of threats from people who claimed they were bringing their guns to ‘free’ the kids.” [Twitter/X, 7/10/20; The Washington Post, 12/16/21]

  • New Mexico’s governor issues temporary gun ban in parts of the state

  • New Mexico’s Democratic governor issued a 30-day ban on carrying guns in public in Albuquerque. On September 8, Lujan Grisham issued “a 30-day ban on carrying firearms in public areas or state property in Albuquerque and its county,” as reported by The New York Times. Lujan Grisham claimed she issued the ban as part of a public health emergency declaration following a spate of fatal shootings of children. The constitutionality of the order is unclear. [The New York Times, 9/9/23]

  • Reddit prohibits content that “encourages,” “incites,” or “calls for violence,” and the site has previously punished subreddits for violating that policy

  • Reddit prohibits “violent content.” Reddit’s policies prohibit content that “encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual (including oneself) or a group of people.” [Reddit, accessed 9/12/23]

  • Reddit previously punished subreddits that violated those rules. In 2017, Reddit “shut down several Nazi and white supremacist subreddits” after its violent content policy went into effect, according to The Verge. In 2018, the site banned the largest subreddit dedicated to QAnon, citing “repeated violations of the terms” of its content policy. NBC News noted that the forum was “host to a stream of violent threats.” In 2019, the platform banned the subreddit “r/frenworld,” which “featured racist and anti-Semitic Pepe the Frog-style cartoons,” with a spokesperson saying it “violated rules against encouraging and glorifying violence.” That platform also quarantined “r/The_Donald” following calls to violence in 2019, when Oregon’s then-governor called for law enforcement to bring back Republican state senators who had fled the state to prevent the assembly of a quorum to pass climate change action. [The Verge, 10/25/17; NBC News, 9/12/18; Twitter/X, 6/20/19; Media Matters, 6/24/19, 6/29/20]

  • Users of “r/conspiracy” issued threats against New Mexico’s government, particularly the governor, in response to the gun order

  • A user wrote that the order was “why the 2nd Amendment was written,” and urged militias in the state “to be mobilized and sent to the fucking City Hall of fucking Albuquerque.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico1

  • A user wrote that in response to the order, “The founding fathers would go straight to them with guns.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico2

  • A user called the governor a “tyrant,” asking, “Can we.... you know,? Short drop and quick stop.” The phrase appears to be a reference to hanging. [Reddit, 9/9/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico3

  • A user called for the governor to be “publicly hung for treason.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

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  • A user wrote, “We have our constitution and second amendment for a reason. The tree of liberty Thomas Jefferson spoke of is mighty thirsty.” The user was apparently referencing former President Thomas Jefferson’s quote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants.” [Reddit, 9/8/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico5

  • Also in reference to Jefferson’s quote, another user wrote, “The tree of liberty is thirsty as fuck.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

     r/conspiracy New Mexico6

  • A user claimed that the governor’s order “is how you start a Civil War.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico7

  • A user wrote that it was a “shame tar and feathering went by the wayside,” suggesting that it would be a suitable punishment for the governor. [Reddit, 9/9/23]

     r/conspiracy New Mexico8

  • A user claimed that “nothing will happen” to stop the governor’s order “until someone uses their gun.” [Reddit, 9/9/23]

     r/conspiracy New Mexico9

  • A user seemed to suggest that the governor’s order is “how you get assassinated.” [Reddit, 9/10/23]

    r/conspiracy New Mexico10