Citing its policy against posting the personal information of others, Reddit has banned the “Pizzagate” conspiracy board. Pizzagate, a persistent and popular conspiracy theory that combines the Clinton diaspora with accusations of a secret pedophile ring, has been a steady force in the enclaves of the pro-Donald Trump internet.
It has also led to some very real harassment of the people caught up in the theory, including the owner of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria, James Alefantis. Alefantis has received hundreds of death threats over the past couple of weeks, he told the New York Times, after Pizzagate enthusiasts decided that his restaurant was the secret headquarters of a child sex-trafficking ring run by Hillary Clinton and her inner circle.
None of the wildly accusatory claims are true. Alefantis told the Times that he asked Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, YouTube and the FBI to help him stop the spread of the conspiracy theory, which uses photos of his own kids as “evidence.”
The leak of stolen emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta provided an opportunity to scour for evidence of wrongdoing. What those sleuths found were lots of references to pizza, which then led to speculation that the emails about pizza must be code for something bad. The theory made its way onto r/The–Donald, the huge, Trump-supporting subreddit, until the hunt spawned its own subreddit, r/Pizzagate, which quickly attracted a dedicated team of internet investigators.
Reddit does not generally ban conspiracy theories, or the boards dedicated to them. What crossed the line with Pizzagate was the repeated posting of private information on the boards from sleuths who believed they were identifying pedophiles or those working to help them.