/r/The_Donald(Redirected from R/The Donald)
Type of site
|Users||~390,000 (as of April 2017)|
|Launched||June 27, 2015|
/r/The_Donald is an Internet forum hosted on Reddit (a "subreddit") created in support of Donald Trump, the current President of the United States. Initially created in June 2015, following the announcement of Trump's presidential campaign, the community has grown to over 390,000 subscribers and in November 2016 was ranked as one of the most active communities on the website.
Activities by members and moderators of the subreddit have been controversial, and site-wide administrators have taken steps, including an overhaul of the Reddit software to prevent the subreddit from manipulating the algorithms that select content to be displayed on Reddit's /r/all forum, which the company's motto describes as "The front page of the Internet".
The subreddit has been criticized by news outlets for spreading conspiracy theories and content that is racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, or white supremacist. Described by NBC News, its "anti-PC ethos made them popular, but it also made it hard for moderators to draw lines between garden-variety trolling designed to provoke and blatantly white supremacist material." The site has been repeatedly accused of providing a "safe-harbor" where racists and white-nationalists can rally to express their views.
On June 27, 2015, immediately after Donald Trump announced his campaign for the presidency at Trump Tower, the subreddit was created to be a place for "following the news related to Donald Trump during his presidential run". The subreddit has grown to be known for frequent posting of memes, especially Pepe the Frog, and frequent use of slang terms such as "centipede" (a reference to a popular Trump highlight reel featuring the Knife Party song "Centipede"), "MAGA", "nimble navigator", "no brakes" "cuck", and "SJW". For a significant period of time, the subreddit also tended to spread an image of Hillary Clinton kissing Robert Byrd, a former member of the KKK. The image was accompanied by a photoshopped picture of an aged Byrd in KKK garb, which was meant to dishonestly portray Clinton and Byrd as KKK supporters (Byrd severed ties with the KKK in 1952). Due to deliberate manipulation by the forum's moderators and active users, the algorithm that dictated what content reached the "/r/all" page of reddit resulted in a significant portion of the page being /r/The_Donald content. In response, Reddit administrators made changes to its algorithms on June 15, 2016, in an attempt to preserve the variety of /r/all. In April 2016, JCM267, the founder of the subreddit, attributed the popularity of the subreddit to moderator CisWhiteMaelstrom. JCM267 told MSNBC that CisWhiteMaelstrom told him "we'd have hundreds of thousands of readers there and I was very skeptical about that, not because I thought Trump can't win, because I think he's the only GOPer with 'landslide victory' potential, but because Reddit is not a conservative place." Subsequently, CisWhiteMaelstrom deleted his Reddit account.
|Donald Trump preparing his AMA on his private jet before landing in Toledo.|
The subreddit has hosted "Ask Me Anythings" (AMAs) of notable Trump supporters including Scott Adams, Ann Coulter, Alex Jones, Helmut Norpoth, Curt Schilling, Peter Schweizer, Roger Stone, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Tucker Carlson. In addition, during the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2016, Donald Trump hosted an AMA on the subreddit. Moderators of the subreddit stated that they banned more than 2,000 accounts during Trump's AMA session. The Trump campaign's digital director, Brad Parscale, stated in June 2016 that he visits the subreddit daily.
In September 2016, Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, introduced a 501(c)(4) organization on /r/The_Donald called "Nimble America" with the stated purpose of creating and spreading pro-Trump Internet memes through "Facebook ads, billboards, and 'website ops'". Luckey stated that he had donated $10,000 to the organization and offered to match contributions from /r/The_Donald users for 48 hours after the announcement. Luckey later apologized for any negative impact his actions had on public perception of Oculus, and stated that he acted independently, not as a representative of Oculus VR.
On November 22, 2016, the moderators of /r/The_Donald announced that they were going to start removing posts about some conspiracy theories such as the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory, citing that such content was "drowning out thoughtful discussion or Trump related content".
On November 23, 2016, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman admitted to editing the comments of /r/The_Donald users by replacing expletive-laden comments directed at his username to be directed at the usernames of /r/The_Donald moderators instead. Huffman said of the change that "I had my fun with them, they had their fun with me, but we are not going to tolerate harassment for any others." One week later, Huffman apologized for his actions, and offered a filter feature to the website, allowing users to exclude subreddits from their /r/all page.
In the beginning of January 2017, after BuzzFeed published an unsubstantiated 35-page document alleged to be a dossier of controversial but unverified information about then-President-Elect Donald Trump, members of the subreddit spread theories that the document was "fan fiction" sent to Republican political strategist Rick Wilson by members of the 4chan forum /pol/. On January 11, 2017, Wilson denied the claims. Later that day, Republican Senator John McCain confirmed that he had sent the dossier to FBI director James Comey several months earlier.
In March 2017, during an AMA on the subreddit, the Republican candidate for Virginia governor Corey Stewart wrote "CONFIRMED!" in response to a user asking him if Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe "is a cuck". This prompted a rebuke from the Virginia GOP chairman John Whitbeck who called some of Stewart's language "racist" and added that the term is "used by white nationalists".
Prominence on Reddit websiteEdit
Through the use of "sticky posts" the moderators of the forum were "gaming" the algorithms in order to dominate the content on the /r/all page, which is a representation of the most popular content on the website. Additionally, users are often apt to flood the website with waves of identical images or posts, a direct violation of site-wide policies regarding spam. In response, Huffman rolled out a change to the /r/all algorithm; he noted that /r/The_Donald was among several Reddit communities over the years that "attempt to dominate the conversation on Reddit at the expense of everyone else". Ongoing problems with members of the subreddit brigading and harassing other subreddits forced Reddit staff to modify the site's software algorithms to limit the offending posts to the subreddit. It has been removed from /r/popular and so it no longer shows on the front page. In February 2017 Reddit overhauled their algorithms even further to prevent content from the subreddit (among other communities) from ever being seen by logged out users or people who don't have a Reddit account.
Conflict with Reddit managementEdit
The subreddit received additional coverage on November 24, 2016, when Huffman admitted to editing /r/The_Donald users' comments that were critical of him, in response to harassment by the community. On November 30, 2016, Huffman announced that sticky threads from /r/The_Donald would no longer show up on /r/all. Huffman's rules were criticized by some Redditors, including both Trump and non-Trump supporters, while others felt the sanctions did not go far enough and called upon Huffman to ban the subreddit entirely. While members of the subreddit claimed they were the victims of censorship, Huffman said the actions were about "banning behavior, not ideas".
The harassment directed at Huffman by /r/The_Donald users led to changes in the manner in which Reddit deals with problematic communities and users. Since being harassed by the community, Huffman stated that Reddit is going to start actively policing problematic users: "We're taking a different strategy now. We are focusing more on, like, taking care of the individual users instead of doing it at the community level which was largely our strategy before."
In March 2017 users of /r/The_Donald accused Reddit of discriminating against them when Reddit's advertising platform portrayed /r/The_Donald as having 6,000,000 subscribers instead of the 385,000 displayed on the subreddit live counter available to the public. The Reddit Director of Communications stated that the subscriber discrepancy was a simple labeling error wherein the count for "Daily Unique Visitors" was mistakenly labeled "Subscribers" and that the error would be partially fixed by the end of the day.
Pizzagate conspiracy theoryEdit
A conspiracy theory involving the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta and the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria attracted attention on /r/The_Donald. Several members of the community created the /r/pizzagate subreddit which was subsequently banned by Reddit administrators for breaking site rules regarding sharing personal information of others. In December 2016, the subreddit gained media attention when it linked a knee injury sustained by NBA player Andrew Bogut to the conspiracy theory.
In response to the popularity of /r/The_Donald, similar subreddits regarding other politicians have been created.
/r/The_Schulz was a subreddit created for Martin Schulz, the former President of the European Parliament and a member of the SPD. According to Spiegel Online, /r/The_Schulz was created as a satire against /r/The_Donald. Like /r/The_Donald, the subreddit frequently uses slang terms, most notabally "MEGA", or "Make Europe Great Again", and "keine bremsen" (German for "no brakes"). Since its creation in November 2016, the subreddit was featured in many articles, both within and outside of Germany. On January 30, 2017 Schulz shouted out the subreddit on his YouTube channel. As of January 2017, /r/The_Schulz has over 10,000 subscribers.
Other notable subreddits include /r/Le_Pen (for French National Front leader Marine Le Pen), /r/The_Farage (for former British UKIP leader Nigel Farage), /r/The_Wilders (for Dutch Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders), and /r/The_Hofer (for Austrian politician Norbert Hofer).
There were also anti-Trump subreddits that were created in response of the subreddit, most notably /r/EnoughTrumpSpam. While changing the /r/all algorithm for /r/The_Donald, Huffman noted that "/r/EnoughTrumpSpam was hit harder than any other community when we rolled out the changes. That's Reddit for you."
Online media receptionEdit
The subreddit was criticized by Vice as being anti-choice, pro-Russia, authoritarian, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic, a hypocritical "free speech" rallying point, and censoring any differing opinion. The publication Slate described /r/The_Donald as a "hate speech forum" and The Verge has described it as a "notoriously fetid troll swamp". According to The New York Times, "Members respond to accusations of bigotry with defiant claims of persecution at the hands of critics. It is an article of faith among posters that anti-racists are the real bigots, feminists are the actual sexists, and progressive politics are, in effect, regressive." The subreddit was also criticized for spreading fake news promoting conspiracy theories, such as "Pizzagate". In February 2017, Medium analyzed how the subreddit was able to spread fake news throughout similar subreddits and conspiracy sites. The subreddit is also connected to the alt-right while an article by The Washington Post connected the moderators of closely related Trump subreddits to racist subreddits such as "/r/Quranimals" and "/r/Rapefugees". The National Memo noted that "moderators have made the occasional attempt to rid /r/The_Donald of overt racism and anti-Semitism" while Motherboard interviewed a moderator of the subreddit, who said "The people from /pol/ who can behave, which is probably most of them, stay. The people who don't behave usually wind up getting banned for rule 3." Gizmodo commented that the subreddit "revealed how easy the site's ageing algorithm is to game", comparing their actions to the profitability of fake news posted on Facebook.
In November 2016, the subreddit received media coverage for reportedly mobilizing readers to leave one-star reviews on Amazon.com for Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's autobiography, Settle for More, in response to what users considered biased reporting. Amazon later removed many of the negative reviews.
In February 2017, after Kellyanne Conway brought up the false Bowling Green massacre, SFGate noted that the subreddit's response to the incident was "varied – and rather muted". Some users shared the video uncritically while others thought that the incident was an intentional part of a larger strategy by the Trump administration.
Using latent semantic analysis, FiveThirtyEight analyzed the relationship between the /r/The_Donald and 50,323 other active subreddits based on 1.4 billion comments made over a two-year period from 2015 to 2016, and found the community was related to a number of "hate-based subreddits", such as the banned /r/fatpeoplehate and /r/coontown.
- Bernie Sanders' Dank Meme Stash
- Social media in the United States presidential election, 2016
- /pol/, a political discussion board on 4chan.
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