Twitter has been hit with accusations of double standards after it tweeted that threatening harm against another person was against its rules following Donald Trump’s positive Covid-19 test.
The official Twitter Comms account posted a short statement on shortly after midnight on Saturday, which read: “Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against *anyone* are not allowed and will need to be removed. This does not automatically mean suspension.”
The tweet was issued in response to tweets which appeared to celebrate the fact that Trump had been hospitalised with Covid-19 – but Twitter’s approach has since been fiercely criticised by users who have faced years of abuse and death threats via the platform.
The platform has long been accused to failing to deal effectively with hateful messages shared both publicly and privately, with many users – particularly those from minority groups – repeatedly targeted.
Author Malorie Blackman was among those to question Twitter’s message, writing: “Weeks of death threats and serious threats against my family when I was Children’s Laureate resulted in Twitter doing bugger all about it. *Side-eyes in Black woman*.”
Women’s rights activist and founder of UK-based charity Glitch, which works to tackle online abuse, Seyi Akiwowo tweeted: “Women, Black people, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people on Twitter are sent death threats everyday. Why didn’t you care then?
“People have wished covid on Black and Asian communities. Why have you only released this statement after a white straight man in America has Covid?”
Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe described her legal fight to get hateful messages directed towards her in response to Twitter’s statement, writing: “I lugged six lever arch files to the High Court in 2017 that were almost entirely filled with printouts of tweets that wished or hoped for my death, serious bodily harm and fatal disease.
“It took 18 months, £800k of lawyers, and winning a libel case to get some of them removed.”
Other users also called out the frequent barrage of hateful comments directed toward minority groups from users on the site, with some sharing their personal experiences of Twitter failing to take action even after reporting messages as abusive.
The platform has taken decisive action against some Twitter users who were found to violate site guidelines in recent months, with Katie Hopkins, far-right blogger David Vance and musician Wiley all permanently suspended from the site.
While Twitter has been praised for shutting down these accounts, users have urged the site to do much more to protect users – particularly Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, LGBTQ people, disabled people and women – from abusive messages.
A Twitter spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “At Twitter, our singular goal is to improve the health of the public conversation, including ensuring the safety of people who use our service.
“Abuse and harassment have no place on Twitter and we have policies in place – which apply to everyone, everywhere – that address abuse and harassment and hateful conduct.
“If we identify accounts that violate these rules, we will take enforcement action.”