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The Unexpected Reason Trump’s Reddit AMA Was Controversial

Donald Trump made it seem like his Reddit AMA went off without a hitch. His supporters didn't quite agree.

INTERNET
Donald J. Trump. — (Photo Illustration: Diana Quach)
Jul 28, 2016 at 9:39 AM ET

Donald Trump revealed little new information about himself, or his plans for the presidency, during his Reddit AMA on Wednesday night. But the Q&A session still drew a wave of controversy as a heap of drama unfolded over the session’s ranking on the platform.

At one point during Trump’s AMA—or Ask Me Anything, as Q&As on Reddit on called—members of the pro-Trump subreddit /r/The_Donald, where the AMA took place, started to get angry. They claimed the discussion had amassed enough points to be on the front page of the subreddit /r/all, while others claimed it actually did appear on the front page of /r/all, which lists all of Reddit’s most popular posts. Many members of /r/The_Donald accused Reddit staff of “censoring” the discussion by removing it from /r/all. One post even called for Reddit’s CEO, Steve Huffman, known on Reddit as /u/spez, to resign, while some users believed the AMA’s disappearance from /r/all was politically motivated.

As criticism grew, /u/spez responded to complaints about the AMA’s placement, stating it dropped in the rankings on /r/all due to a Reddit “anti-cheating” algorithm. “While a post is young, the score we display is not the same as the score we sort by. We do this so that spammers, cheaters, and brigaders (users who work together to “downvote” a post en masse, pushing it down the Reddit leaderboard, and out of sight for most users) don’t know if their tactics are working.” /u/spez added: “We saw this play out again on Donald Trump’s AMA today. While the post did receive many upvotes initially, it was also one of the most controversial posts ever on Reddit, and received nearly as many downvotes.”

Twelve hours after Trump’s AMA was posted, it had fewer than 2,000 points, and users were still “downvoting” the post on Thursday.

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While reaction to the session was heavy with drama, the session itself was light on substance. Trump spent more than an hour answering questions put to him by users of the subreddit /r/The_Donald. But he focused on answering questions from users who appeared to share his positions. Some of those questions asked about Obamacare, immigration, and the economy—questions that have been put to Trump before. Others were particularly trivial. “Are you getting tired of winning?” one redditor asked. “Which US president do you admire the most?” asked another.

When Trump addressed richer questions, such as “What is your plan for reducing or removing the influence of money on politics?” he offered little detail, stating, “Keeping Crooked Hillary Clinton out of the White House!”

The Republican nominee’s seeming avoidance of critics during the event was aided by moderators on /r/The_Donald. One moderator told Vocativ before the event that moderators took steps to shield Trump from impending trolls and people who oppose him. Another moderator claimed afterward that those overseeing the session banned 2,200 Reddit users from participating in the AMA, but didn’t state why.

Trump himself didn’t appear to notice the controversy his AMA created, posting on Facebook after the event: “I am off to my rally in Toledo! Had a great time answering questions on Reddit!”