Reddit banned a year-old community dedicated to the idea that Democrats “will have to be physically separated and removed from society” on Tuesday, just seven weeks after dubbing the subreddit an “expression of the open internet.”
A top post on Reddit’s Physical_Removal community shortly before its ban mocked the physical appearance of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old who was struck and killed by a car in a terror attack during an anti-racism protest in Charlottesville on Saturday. Reddit said the subreddit was banned because users were “posting content that incites violence.”
“Reddit is the home to some of the most authentic conversations online. We strive to be a welcoming, open platform for all by trusting our users to maintain an environment that cultivates genuine conversation and adheres to our content policy,” a Reddit spokesperson emailed The Daily Beast.
“We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence will get users banned from Reddit. We have banned /r/Physical_Removal due to violations of the terms of our content policy.”
Shortly after the attack on Saturday, an announcement pinned to the top of the forum by a moderator was titled, “What happened today with the dead antifa (anti-fascist) was ethical."
On June 30th, The Daily Beast wrote about Reddit’s Physical_Removal community, which had over 9,500 subscribers when it went dark. The report noted the community’s frequent mention of “helicopter rides,” which referred to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s helicopter “death flights” that killed 120 dissidents.
The “helicopter rides” were even written into the community’s rules.
“This subreddit is for people who wish to preserve and defend the concepts of free markets, private property, free speech, meritocracy, liberty, and freedom,” Physical_Removal’s “about us” section reads. “Those who wish to see the death of any of these ideals qualify to get a helicopter ride as they are a danger to individuals, society, and western culture at large.”
The ban of Physical_Removal comes amidst sweeping pressure on prominent online communities and web hosts to ban neo-Nazi and white nationalist websites that are used to support or coordinate targeted harassment.
On Monday, both GoDaddy and Google blocked neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer from using its services to host or hide the owner of its domain name. The site then reappeared Tuesday on the dark web. Discord, a popular chat site and organizing tool for the white supremacists, banned alt-right forums from using its services.
Seven weeks ago, Reddit defended the continued existence of Physical_Removal and the community EuropeanNationalism, where swastikas and SS bolts are visible next to the usernames of moderators and frequent posters.
“Reddit is an expression of the open internet—and sometimes that can be an uncomfortable place. What makes Reddit special is that people feel free to express themselves, and we draw the line when one user expressing himself / herself freely infringes on another user’s ability to do so,” a Reddit spokesperson said in June.
EuropeanNationalism remained live as of this posting, but one of the top posts worried about its imminent departure.
“PhysicalRemoval has been banned and this sub is probably next,” a top post reads on the subreddit.
In February, Reddit banned two prominent alt-right subreddits, AltRight and AlternativeRight, from the site.
“We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting of personal information can get users banned from Reddit and we ask our communities not to post content that harasses or invites harassment. We have banned r/altright due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy,” a spokesperson wrote at the time. “There is no single solution to these issues and we are actively engaging with the Reddit community to improve everyone's experience.”