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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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The conspiracy subreddit is full of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, despite Reddit rules prohibiting such content

Content warning: This article contains numerous examples of bigoted rhetoric.

Update (10/20/23): In a statement to Media Matters regarding this article, a Reddit spokesperson said, “Hate and violence have no place on the Reddit platform. Our sitewide policies explicitly prohibit content that promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability, as well as content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people. In accordance with our policies, several pieces of content in the article were removed by community moderators or our Safety teams. Our internal data confirms significant reductions in the prevalence of hateful content since 2020. We remain committed to removing harmful content, including hate and harassment, across our platform.” As of this update, only two of the comments featured in this article have been removed.

Users on Reddit’s “r/conspiracy” forum have repeatedly and openly posted anti-LGBTQ content for years without pushback, despite the platform’s rules prohibiting “hate based on identity or vulnerability” and anti-LGBTQ “groomer” rhetoric. Reddit has a history of taking action against other subreddits that have violated those rules.

A Media Matters review of r/conspiracy since May 2020 found a widespread pattern of anti-LGBTQ hate, which includes accusing the LGBTQ community of grooming, having “mental illness,” and associating with pedophilia.

  • The r/conspiracy subreddit has been tied to misinformation and right-wing extremism for years

  • The conspiracy subreddit, which has 2 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]

  • Conspiracy subreddit users have spread antisemitism and threats of violence. Users on the conspiracy subreddit have repeatedly spread antisemitism, including content that targets specific Jewish people based on antisemitic tropes, denies the Holocaust, uses an antisemitic symbol to target Jewish people, invokes an antisemitic conspiracy theory about supposed fake Jewish people, and suggests violence against Jewish people. Users have also issued calls to violence, such as threatening New Mexico’s governor and state government over a gun safety order. [Media Matters, 9/12/23, 9/18/23]

  • Reddit prohibits content that promotes hatred of others or pushes anti-LGBTQ “groomer” rhetoric

  • Reddit prohibits content “promoting hate based on identity or vulnerability.” Reddit’s rules ban content “attacking marginalized or vulnerable groups of people,” including “groups based on their actual and perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or disability.” The rule also states that “communities and people that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.” [Reddit, accessed 9/27/23]

  • Reddit prohibits “baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers.’” In July 2022, Reddit “confirmed to the Daily Dot … that baselessly calling LGBTQ people or the community ‘groomers’ or accusing them of ‘grooming’ is governed under its policies prohibiting hate speech.” [Daily Dot, 7/20/22]

  • Reddit says it takes into account “the pattern of behavior” as part of “evaluating the activity of a community” for possible rule violations. In its hate speech rule, Reddit notes that “when evaluating the activity of a community or an individual user, we consider both the context as well as the pattern of behavior.” [Reddit, accessed 9/27/23]

  • Reddit has previously banned subreddits that violated its rules prohibiting hate and violent content. In 2017, Reddit “shut down several Nazi and white supremacist subreddits” after its violent content policy came into effect, according to The Verge. In 2018, the site banned the largest subreddit dedicated to QAnon, citing “repeated violations of the terms of our content policy.” NBC News reported 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,” according to reporter Will Sommer. [The Verge, 10/25/17; NBC News, 9/12/18; Twitter/X, 6/20/19]

    In 2020, Reddit banned the notorious subreddit “r/The_Donald,” with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman writing that the subreddit had violated rules barring hate speech for years. The platform that year also banned nearly 7,000 subreddits as part of a crackdown on hate speech. And last year, the platform banned “the India-focused r/Chodi discussion forum” for “violating Reddit’s rule against promoting hate.” [Media Matters, 6/29/20; The Verge, 8/20/20; Time, 3/24/22]

  • Conspiracy subreddit users have repeatedly attacked the LGBTQ community, including misgendering trans people, connecting LGBTQ people to pedophilia, and calling LGBTQ people “mentally ill”

  • An r/conspiracy user misgendered a woman and claimed that she was “another of these trans mental nut cases they parade in the public these days either as agitprop or humiliation ritual.” [Reddit, 11/30/22]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ1
  • Another user claimed that “left extremists are transgender dolphins with boy love tendencies.” [Reddit, 9/11/20]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ3
  • Another user on r/conspiracy claimed that actor Angelina Jolie is a “transgender satanic pedophile.” [Reddit, 5/6/20]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ5
  • A user claimed there are “more and more people catching on to the trans agenda. It’s just crazy how they want to normalize being trans, being a pedo, and even eating people. It shows how sick and twisted their beliefs are when they want us to embrace these things as well.” [Reddit, 3/5/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ7
  • Another user claimed that certain celebrities are “CIA satanically bred mk ultra sex kitten programmed transgendered puppets designed to corrupt men. Men are masturbating to other men and yoking their spirit to demons.” [Reddit, 9/24/22]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ8
  • In response to a thread claiming that the movie Eyes Wide Shut was about pedophiles, a user asked, “Who do you think bankrolls the T movement?” and claimed, “Literally, every image of Satan features male and female genitalia mixed on the body.” [Reddit, 4/9/23]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ9
  • In response to a thread making misleading allegations about President Joe Biden and his daughter, a user wrote, “Its no wonder Joe Biden love the trans community so much.” [Reddit, 4/12/23]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ10
  • Another conspiracy subreddit user questioned if they were allowed to “joke about the trans agenda, Biden pedo family, Bills Clinton and Gates flying to Epstein Island, and MeToo Hollywood being a fuck-to-play glorified prostitute ring.” [Reddit, 11/30/22]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ12
  • In a thread suggesting ivermectin is “a cure for homosexuality,” an r/conspiracy user claimed that there has been “a powerful and organized push to increase acceptance of homosexuality, for better or worse, and efforts to encourage experimentation with that lifestyle among the young.” [Reddit, 9/28/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ15
  • In response to a user claiming that their sister identified as a “nonbinary, trans pansexual,” another user wrote, “It's terrible that they don't recognize this as illness anymore. These people aren't getting the help they need.” [Reddit, 11/29/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ16
  • A user complained that “the left” believes that “being transgender is not a mental illness.” [Reddit, 3/28/23]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ17
  • A user claimed that “we are now encouraging hormonal blockers on adolescents who have gender dysphoria. It is a death sentence for them. They will never get better or happy. Their lives will be forever miserable ending in tragedy.” [Reddit, 4/25/22]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ19
  • An r/conspiracy user claimed, “The extremes of the cultural left have pushed too hard” for “castrating and mutilating children,” adding that “the blowback is going to be extreme” and unless we “outlaw this stuff and stop it now we are going to see hospitals bombed and doctors, teachers, politicians, ENABLERS executed by detranstionsers in massive numbers in the future.” [Reddit, 5/6/23]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ20
  • Another user claimed that “freemasonry is all about castration and gender inversion,” adding, “The baphomet, Lilith/Esther/Easter/Inanna are all forms of this trans god. They force this on all of us.” [Reddit, 4/17/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ21
  • In a thread misgendering now-U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine, one r/conspiracy user claimed Levine is “a pedo,” and another user claimed that Levine showed that “mental illness doesn't hold people back when trying to get ahead in life.” [Reddit, 5/12/20]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ23
  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ23 part2
  • Conspiracy subreddit users have accused LGBTQ people of “grooming” and attempting to sexualize children

  • In an r/conspiracy thread about a mass shooting, a user claimed that “there are discord channels where people do indeed groom and hype people up to do these types of shootings and even get people to become trans.” [Reddit, 7/21/22]

  • r/conspiracy grooming1
  • A user blamed “woke liberalism promoting the Gender Woowoo which ties in with child grooming and acceptance of pedos.” The user added that “if you can trans a kid and change their natal sex and name on their birth certificate, that’s a perfect cover for child trafficking.” [Reddit, 12/10/21]

  • r/conspiracy grooming2
  • Another user on the conspiracy subreddit created a thread claiming that “the birth place of the world wide grooming in schools and elsewhere occurring in the past few years” as part of “the extremist LGBT political movement.” [Reddit, 6/24/22]

  • r/conspiracy grooming3
  • A user employed an anti-trans slur, claiming that “Tr****e Storytime exist[s] … because it introduces an inherent confusion in developing children, whereas they don't recognize men and women.” [Reddit, 5/25/20]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ4
  • In response to a false claim that the children’s show Blue’s Clues showcased a flag associating the LGBTQ community with pedophiles (it was actually a flag for gender questioning), a user wrote that they “find this propaganda very dangerous and troubling. So glad I don’t have any children who will be brainwashed like this.” [Reddit, 6/2/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ6
  • In another r/conspiracy thread making the same false claim about Blue’s Clues, a user claimed that “all the major queer theorist support have supported pedo stuff.” [Reddit, 6/2/21]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ13
  • A user claimed pedophilia and being transgender were connected, writing, “If kids can consent to transitioning and if adults can talk to kids about sexual topics, if pedophiles can now be called MAPS because ‘non offending ones get hurt feelings’, if this type of ad goes without retribution then the next steps are lowering the age of sexual consent and eventually being out in the open.” [Reddit, 11/22/22]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ11
  • A user wrote that “it’s sad the the left sees LGBTQ and their ability to be nude around kids as okay but if you get caught having sex in a car or in public away from people as a possible sex offender.” [Reddit, 7/17/23]

  • r/conspiracy anti-LGBTQ14