Things That Matter

Twitter Bans Donald Trump Death Threats; AOC and Her ‘Squad’ Wonders Why The Platform Didn’t Extend the Same Courtesy to Them

Photo: Getty Images

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her squad of progressive congresswomen are calling out Twitter for their double standards when it comes to free speech on their platform.

We all know it’s been a rollercoaster of a few days. Ever since it was announced on October 2nd that Trump contracted COVID-19, people have publicly expressed their thoughts on the matter via social media.

While some have offered the President, his wife, and members of his team, their thoughts and prayers, others have had a less good-natured responses.

There are members of the public Americans who are so upset with Trump and his handling of the pandemic that they believe his coronavirus diagnosis is his just desserts (and they’re not afraid to say so). Some people have even gone so far as to wish death upon the president on social media platforms.

Twitter has come out against the recent onslaught of death threats against the president, releasing a statement condemning the bad-faith Twitter users.

“Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone are not allowed and will need to be removed,” the Twitter Communications account tweeted on Friday. “This does not automatically mean suspension.”

The announcement came as a surprise to Twitter users–especially public figures in marginalized communities–who were accustomed to receiving frequent violent threats via the platform.

“The decision to suddenly enforce this policy underscores that centralizing content moderation decisions with Big Tech monopolies will always protect the powerful and silence the marginalized,” said trans activist Evan Greer to The Guardian.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez also didn’t hesitate to point out the hypocrisy of Twitter’s statement.

“So… you mean to tell us you could‘ve done this the whole time?” she tweeted back at Twitter’s communications account. This prompted a response from another member of her “Squad”, Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Minnesota.

“Seriously though, this is messed up,” said Rep. Tlaib. “The death threats towards us should have been taking more seriously by @TwitterComms.”

Members of The Squad, as they call themselves, have been open about the vitriolic harassment they frequently face on social media. These attacks often have sexist, racist, and violent undertones, which makes their messaging all the more frightening.

For example, last year, Ocasio Cortez revealed that she has mornings where the “first thing” she does is review photos of men who “want to kill her”. The fact that now, Twitter is taking a stand against death threats, when before they claimed that free speech prevented them from doing anything, wreaks of hypocrisy.

Representative Ilhan Omar has had similar experiences as AOC’s, but hers have an added layer of Islamophobia. In April 2019, she released a statement saying: “I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video. I thank the Capitol Police, the FBI, the House Sergeant at Arms, and the Speaker of the House for their attention to these threats.”

The video Omar was referring to was footage of a speech she gave to a chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In her speech, she said that Muslims were treated like “second-class citizens” in the United States because “some people did some things” on 9/11.

President Trump retweeted the video, edited to be interspersed with footage of planes crashing into the Twin Towers. He captioned the video: “We will never forget!”

In her statement, Omar continued, saying: “Violent rhetoric and all forms of hate speech have no place in our society, much less from our country’s Commander in Chief. We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”

Since it’s initial statement, Twitter has further clarified saying in a statement to Motherboard: “We’re prioritizing the removal of content when it has a clear call to action that could potentially cause real-world harm.”

We can all probably agree that this policy makes complete sense. What doesn’t make sense is why Twitter prioritizes Donald Trump’s life over the lives of these four less powerful women.

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Ice Cube Catches Massive Blowback For Teaming Up With the Trump Campaign; Denies He’s Endorsing Him

Things That Matter

Ice Cube Catches Massive Blowback For Teaming Up With the Trump Campaign; Denies He’s Endorsing Him

Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Ice Cube is catching lots of heat for meeting with the Trump campaign to collaborate on policy. According to Ice Cube, he met with the Trump campaign to discuss what he calls a “Contract with Black America“. His 13-point plan proposes a robust overhaul of everything from the banking industry to prison reform.

After meeting with Ice Cube, the Trump campaign adapted the Contract with Black America into what Trump has called his “Platinum Plan”. Trump’s Platinum Plan outlined vague promises of continuing “to seek immediate and generational advancement for Black Americans”. The Platinum Plan proposal also claimed Trump “works every day to advance a fair and just America for the Black Community.”

Ice Cube, for his part, has refuted reports that he approached the Trump campaign specifically. “I didn’t ‘run’ to go work with any campaign. Both campaigns contacted me. Both campaigns wanted to talk to me about the Contract with Black America,” Ice Cube said in an interview with CNN addressing the controversy.

He continued: “[The Biden] campaign said, ‘We love what you have, but let’s really dig into after the election.’ And [the Trump] campaign said ‘We love what you have, do you mind talking to us about it?’ And that’s what I did, so I didn’t ‘run’ to nobody.”

Although Ice Cube says that he would have met with any political party regardless of affiliation in order to get his plan off the ground, critics are still annoyed that he decided to team up with a man who has such a dismal track record with Black Americans.

President Donald Trump has been plagued by accusations of racism throughout his tenure as president as well as before. Not only did he hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma (the historical location of a racial massacre) on Juneteenth, but he recently canceled racial sensitivity training, claiming it was “racist”. More recently, Trump has refused to condemn white supremacist organizations like the Proud Boys.

Critics are also expressing concern that the Trump campaign is using Ice Cube as a ploy to entice more Black Americans into voting Republican. These concerns were made more apparent when the President’s son, Eric Trump, tweeted out a photoshopped picture of Ice Cube and 50 Cent sitting side-by-side, both wearing MAGA hats. To his credit, Ice Cube quickly condemned him.

But Ice Cube insists he isn’t endorsing Donald Trump, per se–he’s simply teaming up with whatever political party is more willing to collaborate with him.

“I’m not playing no more of these political games, we’re not part of a team…so I’m going to whoever’s in power and I’m going to speak to them about our problems, specifically,” Ice Cube said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

It should be worth noting that Ice Cube recently took to his Instagram page to encourage his followers not to vote “unless you get something out of it”.

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Twitter Has Busted a Ring of Fake Accounts That Posed As Black Trump Supporters

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Twitter Has Busted a Ring of Fake Accounts That Posed As Black Trump Supporters

Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

On Monday, Twitter announced that it has suspended 15 Twitter accounts of “Black Trump supporters” that they discovered were fake. The accounts were similar in nature, tweeting out nearly identical messages, like “YES IM BLACK AND IM VOTING FOR TRUMP!!!” and “VOTE REPUBLICAN”. The accounts quickly amassed thousands of followers and retweets.

The fake “Black Trump Supporter” accounts were discovered by social media disinformation researcher Darren Linvill, who flagged the accounts and reported them to Twitter.

The accounts violate Twitter’s rule barring users from using the platform “in a manner intended to artificially amplify or suppress information or engage in behavior that manipulates or disrupts people’s experience.”

The Twitter accounts sourced their profile photos through internet image searches. One profile photo even included the search term “black man photo” at the top of the profile photo–proving that someone stole the photo from the internet and (sloppily) cropped it. Others were revealed, via reverse-image searching, to be generic stock photos of Black people.

The accounts seemed to follow a pattern: the Black Trump supporters were devout Christians, veterans, blue-collar workers, police officers…you get the picture. 

“They are impersonating Black Trump supporters, Black authoritative figures such as veterans and police officers, and various prominent individuals in order to gain rapid traction and virality,” said cybersecurity manager Lee Foster to The Washington Post.

Linvill says that the accounts don’t necessarily appear to be a coordinated campaign, although he did find traces of the Russian alphabet  in the accounts’ online records. Linvill hypothesizes that the accounts might have had monetary motives–they often tweeted out links to buy Trump merchandise. 

Another theory is that, based on the timing, whoever created the fake accounts is trying to change what appears to be the persistent narrative that President Trump is racist. The accounts became much more active in recent months, around the time when Trump refused to condemn white supremacist groups on national TV. These “Black Trump supporters” make it seem like he actually has the support of Black Americans. 

But polls and surveys prove that Trump is highly unpopular among Black Americans. The Pew Research Center shows that 81% of Black voters support Biden in the upcoming election. 

These most recent fake Twitter accounts are one of the many ways that the Republican Party has been attempting to manipulate voters this election cycle. Along with spreading disinformation, the party has set up unsanctioned ballot drop-off boxes across California. The Governor of Texas, Rick Abbott (R) also made headlines recently for restricting the amount of official ballot boxes in Texas to only one per county–a move that critics slammed as a transparent attempt to suppress the Latino vote.

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