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

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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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