- Reddit banned nearly 2,000 subreddits on Monday, including r/The_Donald, arguing it violated its new policies on hate speech, among other rules.
- The same day, Twitch temporarily suspended President Trump’s account over two videos from rallies where he made racist remarks against the Latinx community– marking the first time one of the president’s personal accounts has been suspended.
- YouTube also permanently banned several accounts belonging to white supremacists including David Duke, Stefan Molyneux, and Richard Spencer.
Reddit Announces Bans
Reddit, Twitch, and YouTube all took steps to crack down on President Donald Trump and right-wing accounts Monday.
In a post on the platform, Reddit announced that it had rolled out several new content rules, including updates to its policies that more explicitly ban hate speech.
“Communities and users that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned,” the post said.
As a result of those new rules, Reddit also announced that it was banning about 2,000 subreddits, notably including r/The_Donald, the main forum for Trump supporters on the platform.
The subreddit was created in 2015 when Trump was running for president and quickly became a very significant online base for him, boasting just under 800,000 users. While it does not have an official connection to Trump, he has been known to share memes from it, and in July 2016, when he was running for president, he did an Ask Me Anything.
The page has long been accused of sharing hate speech, conspiracies theories, and promoting violence. Over the years, Reddit has cracked down on the page multiple times for violating its policies.
Last year, the company “quarantined” the page— meaning it was placed behind a warning screen— over comments that Reddit said incited violence. Even before that, the platform had also prevented posts on the subreddit from reaching the front page.
Recently, the page’s moderators and much of its audience have moved to other websites that are similar to Reddit but have fewer content rules, and as a result, the forum has been largely inactive for about three months.
In their post, Reddit noted that the “vast majority” of the 2,000 subreddits they banned were already inactive. The post also went on to explain why they banned the r/The_Donald subreddit.
“All communities on Reddit must abide by our content policy in good faith,” it said. “We banned r/The_Donald because it has not done so, despite every opportunity. The community has consistently hosted and upvoted more rule-breaking content than average, […] antagonized us and other communities, […] and its mods have refused to meet our most basic expectations. Until now, we’ve worked in good faith to help them preserve the community as a space for its users—through warnings, mod changes, quarantining, and more.”
Notably, Reddit also said that it had banned the subreddit r/ChapoTrapHouse—which is a spinoff of the popular left-wing podcast—for similar reasons.
“Though smaller, r/ChapoTrapHouse was banned for similar reasons: They consistently host rule-breaking content and their mods have demonstrated no intention of reining in their community,” it said.
Twitch Suspends Trump
Around the same time, as Reddit’s post, Twitch also announced that it was temporarily suspending President Trump’s Twitch account for “hateful conduct.”
In statements to the media, the company noted two recent streams uploaded by Trump that violated their rules. The first was a rebroadcast of his famous 2015 campaign rally where he made racist comments about Mexico sending the U.S. rapists who bring drugs and crime.
The other was a broadcast of Trump’s rally a few weeks ago in Tulsa, where he talked about a “very tough hombre” breaking into a woman’s house in the middle of the night, saying that was something that happened a lot.
“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the media. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”
While the company did not say how long the suspension would last, the move is still highly significant as it marks the first time ever that one of Trump’s personal social media accounts has been suspended.
YouTube Bans White Supremacists
Later on Monday, YouTube too took steps to address hate speech and announced that it was permanently banning several prominent white supremacist channels, including ones belonging to former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, podcaster Stefan Molyneux, and white supremacist activist Richard Spencer.
In a statement, the platform said that the channels repeatedly violated its rules by claiming that members of protected groups were inferior, among other violations.
“We have strict policies prohibiting hate speech on YouTube, and terminate any channel that repeatedly or egregiously violates those policies,” a spokesperson said. “After updating our guidelines to better address supremacist content, we saw a 5x spike in video removals and have terminated over 25,000 channels for violating our hate speech policies.”
These bans come almost exactly a year after YouTube announced that it would start cracking down on supremacist channels. The company, however, has already received pushback for the move.
In a tweet Monday, Spencer said that he would appeal the suspension, which he described as “part of a systemic, coordinated effort.”
Molyneux also took to Twitter to voice his displeasure, writing that that YouTube “just suspended the largest philosophy conversation the world has ever known.”
A Broader Shift
The steps taken by Reddit, Twitch, and YouTube are part of this recent shift many social media platforms have begun to make.
Most companies have long-embraced a more hands-off approach and said they want to remain neutral, but now, more and more are changing their tones— especially when it comes to hate speech and President Trump.
Twitter has now placed labels on multiple Trump tweets for sharing misinformation or inciting violence. Recently, Snapchat said it will not promote Trump’s account anymore because his posts can be seen as encouraging violence.
At the same time, Facebook, the biggest social media platform in the world, has consistently refused to address these issues. While the company has claimed over and over again it does not want to police speech, numerous critics have said that they are simply allowing hate speech on the platform.
With so many other social media companies beginning to make changes, Facebook is now seeing unprecedented backlash for its refusal to follow suit.
Over the last week or so, a steadily growing number of major advertisers like Starbucks, Honda, Verizon, Coca-Cola, and more have joined a boycott of Facebook over its policies on hate speech and misinformation on the platform.
The move comes after civil rights groups pressured companies to stop paying for advertisements on Facebook, specifically, because the company has allowed posts from Trump that other platforms like Twitter have flagged as inciting violence.
Despite the numerous requests—and the fact that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly lost $7 billion last week because of the boycott— the company has refused to take any action in removing the content.
On Friday, Facebook responded to the boycott by announcing it will expand its hate speech policies and label posts from politicians who violate rules as “newsworthy.” However, those labels do not explain why the posts are inaccurate or hateful, and many say the company is just going to label hate speech from political figures “newsworthy” without taking any real steps.
Currently, it is unclear if the boycott has had any real, lasting impact, especially because some of the companies are only boycotting for a month. Because Facebook is such a huge incredibly rich company, losing those advertisers is probably just a drop in the bucket.
The issue of political speech is something Zuckerberg has remained really firm on, and while it seems unlikely he will waiver in any meaningful absent some massive event, it will be interesting to see how other companies like YouTube and Twitter continue to change.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Verge) (Business Insider)
Tencent Stock Plummet as Company Weighs Video Games Ban for Kids in China
The world’s largest game developer appears fearful that the Chinese government will launch another crackdown on gaming similar to one it launched in 2019 when it limited game time for minors.
No More Video Games
Tencent Holdings, Ltd. — China’s most valuable corporation and the world’s largest gaming company — announced Tuesday that it would consider completely banning games for those under 12-years-old in China.
Tencent also announced that it will now limit playtime for Chinese minors to just 1 hour during weekdays and no more than 2 hours during weekends and holidays. Under a Chinese law set up in 2019, game developers are required to limit minors to just 1 hour and 30 minutes of playtime during weekdays and 3 hours during weekends and holidays.
Additionally, the company explained that it will move forward with plans to enact systems that bar those under 12 from engaging in microtransactions, starting with the largest mobile game, “Honor of Kings” (王者荣耀). It’s possible the ban will extend to some of Tencent’s other holdings, such as “League of Legends” (Riot Games) and “Path of Exile” (Grinding Gear Games), although these changes will likely only affect Chinese users.
Tencent’s decision comes just a day after the Economic Information Daily, a subsidiary of state media giant Xinhua News, said in a now-deleted article that video games were “spiritual opium” and that no industry should continue in a manner that will “destroy a generation.”
Likening video games to opium holds cultural significance in China, which has long disliked narcotics and is sensitive to comparisons to the drug. Using such language, especially by state media, is often seen as a sign that the government is ready to crack down on the industry.
Those fears largely played out over a 24-hour period as shares for Tencent and NetEase, another large game developer in China, plummeted. Tencent’s shares dropped by 11% on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, although it eventually settled at just a 6% loss by the end of Tuesday.
It wasn’t just Chinese gaming companies that were worried. The announcement sent ripples across the entire industry as Nintendo, Capcom, and Nexon shares all were heavily affected as well. One of the reasons that such an article can cast widespread concern is that China has increasingly become the largest market in the $180 billion video game industry, making it larger than the global movie industry and North American professional sports, combined.
Coupled with the recent fall of ActivisionBlizzard’s stock over the last two weeks due to its sexual assault lawsuit and other industry shakeups, over a trillion dollars of market value was wiped out at one point on Tuesday.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Time) (Fox Business)
Google Is Banning “Sugar Dating” Apps as Part of New Sexual Content Restrictions
The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms.
Sugar Dating Crackdown
Google has announced a series of policy changes to its Android Play Store that include a ban on sugar dating apps starting September 1.
The company’s Play Store policies already prohibit apps that promote “services that may be interpreted as providing sexual acts in exchange for compensation.”
Now, it has updated its wording to specifically include “compensated dating or sexual arrangements where one participant is expected or implied to provide money, gifts or financial support to another participant (‘sugar dating’).”
The change essentially targets apps like Elite Millionaire Singles, SeekingArrangements, Spoil, and tons of other sugar dating platforms currently available for download.
What Prompted the Change?
The company didn’t explain why it’s going after sugar dating apps, but some reports have noted that the move comes amid crackdowns of online sex work following the introduction of the FOSTA-SESTA legislation in 2018, which was meant to curb sex trafficking.
That’s because FOSTA-SESTA created an exception to Section 230 that means website publishers can be held liable if third parties are found to be promoting prostitution, including consensual sex work, on their platforms.
It’s worth noting that just because the apps will no longer be available on the Play Store doesn’t mean the sugar dating platforms themselves are going anywhere. Sugar daters will still be able to access them through their web browsers, or they can just sideload their apps from other places.
Still, the change is likely going to make the use of these sites a little less convenient.
See what others are saying: (The Verge)(Engadget)(Tech Times)
Activision Blizzard CEO Apologizes for “Tone Deaf” Response to Harassment Suit, Unsatisfied Employees Stage Walkout
Organizers of a Wednesday walkout say they “will not return to silence” and “will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.”
After a week of growing criticism against its workplace culture, the CEO of Activision Blizzard has finally apologized for how the company first responded to allegations of sexual harassment and assault in its offices.
“Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone deaf,” CEO Bobby Kotick said Tuesday in a letter to employees. “It is imperative that we acknowledge all perspectives and experiences and respect the feelings of those who have been mistreated in any way. I am sorry that we did not provide the right empathy and understanding.”
In its initial response, Activision Blizzard denounced the disturbing allegations brought forth in a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) as “irresponsible.” The company added that it came from “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”
But many current and former employees soon disputed that claim. In fact, at the time, more than 2,500 had signed their name to an open letter condemning the company for its response, which they described as “abhorrent and insulting” to survivors.
In his letter, Kotick promised employees that Blizzard will take “swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for.”
As part of a series of new policies, he said the company will now offer additional employee support and listening sessions, as well as potential personnel changes to leadership.
“Anyone found to have impeded the integrity of our processes for evaluating claims and imposing appropriate consequences will be terminated,” he added.
Kotick also said Blizzard will add “compliance resources” to ensure that leadership is adhering to diverse hiring directives.
Lastly, he promised that the company will remove “inappropriate” in-game content. In a similar statement on Tuesday, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft team said it’s actively working to remove “references that are not appropriate for our world,” though it didn’t specify what those references were.
It now appears that many of the references being removed are of the game’s former Senior Creative Director, Alex Afrasiabi, who is cited in the lawsuit as someone who hit on and made unwanted advances at female employees. Moreover, the suit also directly accuses him of groping one woman.
“Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite” during company events “was nicknamed the “[Cosby] Suite” after alleged rapist Bill [Cosby],” the suit claims.
Organizers of a company-wide employee walkout, which was announced Tuesday and occurred Wednesday, still argue that Kotick’s latest message doesn’t address their larger concerns.
Among those are “the end of forced arbitration for all employees,” “worker participation in oversight of hiring and promotion policies,” “the need for greater pay transparency to ensure equality,” and “employee selection of a third party to audit HR and other company processes.”
“We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.”
Ahead of the walkout, Blizzard reportedly encouraged its own employees to attend, saying those workers would face no repercussions and “can have paid time off” during the demonstration, according to The Verge.