Amid a hardening consensus that conspiracy theories emboldened this week’s Capitol Building rioters—many adorned with “Q” garments, waving Q flags, screaming about election fraud—Reddit is quietly weeding out spreaders of election-related conspiracies.
As the Daily Dot first reported, Reddit admins on Thursday permanently suspended the account for r/conspiracy’s head moderator, axolotl_peyotl. He recently posted about the nascent, baseless conspiracy theory that Italy used a military satellite to interfere with U.S. election systems.
Reddit has also banned the unofficial Donald Trump subreddit r/donaldtrump, Axios first reported, and a Reddit spokesperson confirmed in an email. In the days after the election, the group had retitled its page to “President Donald Trump - Election Defense Task Force - Stop The Steal!” and on Thursday exclaimed about “protesters” who’d photographed an open inbox in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. (Founded way back in 2011, r/donaldtrump, with 52,000 members, was significantly smaller than the subreddit r/The_Donald, which Reddit banned in June for harassment, hate speech, and content manipulation. That subreddit’s roughly 800,000-strong troop resettled on a subreddit copycat site, TheDonald.win.)
Reddit declined to offer specific examples of posts that prompted its decisions, but it gestured to the siege. In a message reposted by r/conspiracy mods, which Reddit verified to Gizmodo, the company said only that axolotl_peyotl was suspended for unnamed “repeated violations of our content policy.” The admins went on to gesture to “inciting communities,” writing:
We hope this doesn’t cause too much disruption in your community or modteam, especially given recent events. While we do not make these decisions lightly, we need to ensure that moderators are not inciting their communities in ways that break our content policies.
A spokesperson offered a little more detail in regard to the DonaldTrump subreddit, specifically naming the Capitol Building riot:
Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals. In accordance with this, we have been proactively reaching out to moderators to remind them of our policies and to offer support or resources as needed. We have also taken action to ban the community r/donaldtrump given repeated policy violations in recent days regarding the violence at the U.S. Capitol.
Leading up to this week’s riot, r/donaldtrump had also echoed “Italygate,” called Pence a traitor, and speculated that left-wing infiltrators posed as Trump supporters, which has been refuted by the FBI.
Though the remaining r/conspiracy mods bid axolotl_peyotl a fond farewell, most commenters did not. Redditors complained that he reigned with a ferocious banhammer against those who would disagree with ill-supported theories and anti-vaxx and pro-Trump agendas—not to mention he once encouraged the community to watch a “documentary” entitled “Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told.”
Reddit declined to indicate whether it plans to remove other groups and users. Unfortunately, we’re about [checking watch] five years into the pillfest.