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Reddit’s Theorists Give Up Trying to Explain Donald Trump’s Reddit Takeover

"It’s not worth the drama or political sniping for us as moderators."

For months on Reddit, the unofficial campaign subreddit for Donald Trump, /r/the_donald has produced many of the site's most popular posts, and Reddit's most curious theorists are tired of trying to explain why.

/r/the_donald is a weird bastion of memes, news, and thinly-veiled racism and misogyny, and over the last couple months, posts there have dominated /r/all, the page where Reddit's most popular posts from across the site show up. Much like the popularity of the candidate himself, people have been looking for an answer to the subreddit's popularity.


Posters at /r/TheoryOfReddit, a kind of meta subreddit where amateur data analysts try to explain what makes Reddit work, have spent a great deal of time over the last couple months trying to explain the inner workings of /r/the_donald and its popularity. With Trump essentially wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination, moderators of /r/TheoryOfReddit decided they've had enough, and announced posts about /r/the_donald would be banned.

"We're leaving up the existing [It's not worth the drama or political sniping for us as moderatorsposts about Trump] but any new ones will be removed. It's not worth the drama or political sniping for us as mods," agentlame, the Theory of Reddit moderator wrote.

In April, /r/the_donald received over forty-five million page views, down from fifty-one million the month before. Even though the number of page views has taken a dive this month, they're still insanely high compared to where the subreddit was only at the beginning of the year. In January, the page didn't even make it to a million and a half views.

The Trump page's sudden rise has baffled Theory Of Reddit posters for months, and the subreddit's moderators are sick of it. "It's not a political stance, it's just we have like four active mods and don't have the resources to deal with the comment wars," agentlame told me over direct message.

So what makes the /r/the_donald machine tick? One theory as to why posts from there end up on top of /r/all is is that the moderators of the pro-Trump page have disabled Reddit's down arrow, meaning that they've gotten rid of any sort of negative feedback mechanism (It's worth noting that the pro-Hillary Clinton subreddit doesn't have downvotes enabled either.)

Another theory is that the subreddit is incredibly well run and closely moderated. Oftentimes moderators will "sticky" a post—meaning they temporarily pin it to the top of the page —until it garners enough attention, and then it's quickly interchanged for a new post.

Stickied posts are usually reserved for messages intended to stay up for a long time, but on at least several instances, the Trump subreddit moderators have left posts stickies for less than an hour.

While there were plenty who supported the change, not everyone on Theory of Reddit is happy about the ban. "I see a lot of agreement with this decision, but I think a blanket ban is stupid," Reddit user qevlarr wrote.