Politics

Reddit Attempts to Stop the Trump Meme Brigade

June 20th 2016

By:
Aron Macarow

Some of Donald Trump's most vocal supporters have turned to Reddit this election season, at times transforming the online platform into a veritable Trump-topia by voting up their content to dominate the site with pro-Trump memes and subreddit threads. That party may be ending.

Reddit announced Monday that the site is changing the algorithm responsible for the r/all feed, which shows the most popular content across all of the site's subreddits. The aim? To stop some communities from promoting large numbers of their own posts, thereby taking over what Reddit calls the "front page of the internet."

"The gist of the way it works is that the more often a community is in the [r/all] listing, its 'hotness' gets demoted a little bit," Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman explained.

What this means in practice is that repeated posts from the same community that make it into the r/all feed will make it less likely that future posts from that specific community will appear on the Reddit front page. This is by design: The hope is that it will keep small groups of the service's users from taking over the site's overall conversations, as happened in the wake of the Orlando massacre on June 12.

The change isn't a direct response to the popular r/the_donald subreddit — a pro-Trump Reddit community with no official connection to the Trump campaign — which has been accused of taking over the main feed of the site with racist taunts and other problematic rhetoric. But it isn't unrelated to the group, either.

"We have seen many communities like r/the_donald over the years: ones attempting to dominate the conversation on Reddit at the expense of everyone else. This undermines Reddit, and we're not going to allow it," Huffman said in a town hall post on Reddit Thursday.

Huffman added that the behavior of the r/the_donald group may not have prompted the algorithm change, but that "their behavior hastened its deployment."

The change holds the promise of preventing any one subreddit from dominating the main page of the site. Still, troubling content continues to make its way onto the r/all feed. The most recent problem occurred Tuesday, when a post from the r/the_donald subreddit received more than 8,200 upvotes in two hours, catapulting it into the r/all feed.

The post featured four swastikas and the note, "Don't mind me, just taking my admins for a walk" — which many felt was a taunt directed at the platform for the recent algorithm switch. ("Cucked" has also entered the far right lexicon as a term to demean conservatives who are traitors to their conservative base.)

( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)╯╲___卐卐卐卐 Don't mind me, just taking my admins for a walk from The_Donald

It's too soon to tell whether the algorithm adjustment will ultimately have a meaningful effect on the content that appears on the main page from r/the_donald and other alt-right subreddit groups. So far, it appears that some things haven't changed.

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