Update (last updated 8/13/21): The article has been updated with additional information.
Moderators for the now-banned subreddit “r/The_Donald” have helped other subreddits with toxic content find a new home, using a backup forum created to circumvent previous Reddit restrictions. Although Reddit had banned some of these subreddits, r/The_Donald and others have had ample time to prepare.
On June 29, 2020, Reddit announced that it was banning about 2,000 subreddits in an attempt to make its policy against hate speech more explicit. One of those banned forums is r/The_Donald, a pro-Trump subreddit known for spreading misinformation and bigoted content. The subreddit was quarantined in June 2019 by the platform following a Media Matters report on its users issuing calls to violence against law enforcement. In the months following the quarantine, the subreddit’s moderators created a backup forum that was then called TheDonald.win, which they then promoted on r/The_Donald and which the subreddit’s users officially moved to earlier in 2020 after a further crackdown from Reddit.
TheDonald is now extending its efforts beyond just providing space for users of r/The_Donald. Since June 2020, the moderators have helped launch forums for multiple subreddits under the existing “.win” infrastructure. Thus far, the forums that have clear ties to the subreddits include:
- A forum for “r/GreatAwakening,” a subreddit dedicated to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory. The subreddit was banned in 2018 for violating Reddit rules on “inciting violence, harassment, and the dissemination of personal information.” In July 2020, one of the moderators of TheDonald had urged the subreddit’s former moderators to contact them to create a new forum. One of the users on the forum wrote that “some mods from donald.win are helping us get up and running” and that “Im not sure if we would be here without them and their help.”
- A forum for “r/GavinMcInnes” and “r/CensoredTV,” subreddits dedicated to Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right gang the Proud Boys, and his streaming platform censored.tv, respectively. The GavinMcInnes subreddit was banned in 2020 for “posting violent content.” While announcing the launch of the forum, a moderator thanked TheDonald “for not only giving us a place, but letting us roll this out early.” McInnes has promoted the forum on the social media platform Parler.
- A forum for “r/MetaCanada,” whose users, as Vice noted in 2017, “spend their time cheering the deaths of those who had the gall to be feminist (or simply not Islamophobic).”
- A forum for “r/ConsumeProduct,” which was also banned on June 29, 2020, for hate speech. A moderator for the forum when announcing its launch gave a “big special thanks to the The_Donald team for allowing us to be here.” A moderator for TheDonald wrote after r/ConsumeProduct’s ban, “We had started working with the /r/ConsumeProduct moderators to provide a new home for them at Win prior to their ban earlier today.”
- A forum for “r/KotakuInAction,” a subreddit dedicated to Gamergate, a far-right online harassment campaign against women in gaming.
- A forum for “r/KotakuInAction2,” another subreddit dedicated to Gamergate.
- A forum for “r/WeekendGunnit,” the biggest subreddit for the extremist “boogaloo” movement; in response to the June 2020 subreddit bans, the subreddit voluntarily closed down and announced on Reddit its move to the “.win” community.
- A forum for “r/conspiracy,” a conspiracy theory subreddit known for spreading anti-Semitism and popularizing the false Wayfair conspiracy theory. A moderator for the subreddit announced the launch of the forum as a “back-up/contingency plan if r/conspiracy were censored or otherwise neutered.” And while announcing the forum, a moderator for TheDonald called it “particularly exciting since it's a topic that many on The Donald have an existing interest in.”
- A forum for “r/tucker_carlson,” a subreddit dedicated to the Fox News host who is known to be beloved by white nationalists. A moderator for the subreddit encouraged followers “to please make an account at our alternative location” and suggested the forum was a backup in case the subreddit was banned.
- A forum for “r/NoNewNormal,” a coronavirus conspiracy theory subreddit. In response to the subreddit being quarantined, a moderator on TheDonald announced that a forum had been created for it on the “.win” platform, writing, “We had been following the community for a long time, knowing it would eventually get quarantined and soon after, banned.”
The launches of these forums suggest that Reddit’s delay in implementing its ban, particularly of r/The_Donald, seem to have come at a price, allowing the subreddit time to create a whole new platform with even fewer restrictions for some of Reddit’s more toxic spaces.