Chapo Trap House, the subreddit for the popular leftist podcast of the same name, has been quarantined for “repeated rule breaking behavior” which, according to Reddit admins, was “especially in the form of encouragement of violence.”
The quarantine means that the community is now hidden behind opt-in warning messages and its posts will receive less distribution on Reddit. It comes after Reddit CEO Steve Huffman admitted that the site’s policies around quarantining are intentionally vague.
The moderators of Chapo Trap House claim that they haven’t been given examples of the violent content and have cited one example of a post which they say was removed by Reddit admins but doesn’t break any rules.
Members of The Donald subreddit, which was quarantined in June after facing similar accusations that it’s “full of calls for violence,” recently compiled a list of over 100 examples of threats of violence on left-wing Reddit communities which contradict these claims from the Chapo Trap House moderators by showing multiple violent threats from members of the Chapo Trap House subreddit. However, many of these comments have now been removed.
The quarantining of Chapo Trap House and Huffman’s comments on quarantining highlight the many issues that come with quarantining subreddits.
First, the lack of transparency around quarantining often results in accusations of bias. The Donald subreddit members said that they compiled their list of violent threats from leftist subreddits to highlight the “incredibly disproportionate punishment” their community received in comparison to other ”politically liberal subreddits.”
Now similar claims are appearing in the Chapo Trap House subreddit with many users claiming that Chapo Trap House is being treated unfairly in comparison to The Donald and other subreddits. This perceived bias usually results in more calls for censorship which then causes more quarantines or bans as Reddit’s admins attempt to appear like they’re enforcing the rules fairly.
Second, there are always a small number of bad actors in any online community. The tendency of big tech platforms to punish entire communities for the actions of these bad actors means that people who want these communities censored or shut down can intentionally sabotage them with hateful or violent comments.
The quarantine means that people trying to access Chapo Trap House will see the following warning message and be asked to opt-in before they can see the posts. The warning message says:
“Are you sure you want to view this community?
This community is quarantined.
It is restricted due to significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of the Reddit Content Policy.
As a visitor or member, you can help moderators maintain the community by reporting and downvoting rule-breaking content.
Are you certain you want to continue?”
Below the message is a “NO THANK YOU” button and a “CONTINUE” button. If people select “NO THANK YOU,” they’re directed to the Reddit homepage whereas selecting “CONTINUE” brings them to the Chapo Trap House subreddit homepage.
If people select “CONTINUE,” they’re presented with a second warning message upon entering the community which reads:
This community is quarantined: It is restricted due to significant issues with reporting and addressing violations of the Reddit Content Policy. As a visitor or member, you can help moderators maintain the community by reporting and downvoting rule-breaking content. Click to return home.”
In addition to displaying warning messages, the quarantining of the Chapo Trap House subreddit also:
- Prevents Chapo Trap House posts from appearing in non-subscription based feeds such as the Reddit Popular feed, Reddit search, and Reddit recommendations
- Removes custom styling from the Chapo Trap House subreddit and restores the original report button (the button had previously been edited to say “Snitch”)
The quarantine can be appealed after a period of time that has been communicated to Chapo Trap House moderators if there is a “notable and sustained community transformation before a successful appeal.” However, Reddit admins are now monitoring the community for “patterns of rule-violating content” and this could lead to an eventual ban.
The quarantining of Chapo Trap House and The Donald follows many other communities being censored or shut down this year because of actions of some bad actors. For example, Sargon of Akkad’s subreddit was quarantined in April after the media publicized a small number of comments left by bad actors in his Discord server.