For the first African American female Vice President of a country that once elected Donald Trump as President, receiving hateful messages on social media is just a part of the job. But a new report from Bot Sentinel has revealed that hateful tweets directed at Vice President Kamala Harris are out of control and often go unchecked by the popular social media platform.
Bot Sentinel is a non-partisan platform created to “help fight disinformation and targeted harassment” on Twitter. The group found that more than 4,200 tweets directed at VP Harris violated the platform’s policies based on their “use of the n-word, manipulated graphic images and death threats” between January and May of 2022 alone.
Christopher Bouzy, Bot Sentinel’s founder, said his organization began investigating offensive tweets directed at the Vice President after being approached by a group of Black women who said their reports of abuse were being ignored by Twitter. “They were receiving the same messages that we ended up receiving, that those tweets were not violating their policies,” Bouzy told CBS News.
As CBS News reported, out of a set of 40 tweets Bot Sentinel flagged for violating Twitter’s harassment policy, Twitter initially removed two, ignored 18, and said the rest – including one with a threat to kill the Vice President – didn’t violate any of their policies. Bouzy added that days after their original report was released, Twitter suspended 10 of the accounts and erased all 40 tweets from the platform.
In case you were wondering, Twitter’s Hateful Conduct Policy has specific language against hateful conduct and explicitly says that users “may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.” They also “prohibit content that makes violent threats against an identifiable target.” And according to their “zero tolerance” policy against violent threats, offenders “will face immediate and permanent suspension of their account.”
But a 2018 Amnesty International study called out Twitter as a toxic place for women and revealed that women of color are particularly at risk for harassment. Their research found that Black women were over 80 percent more likely than white women to be the target of hateful tweets.
In addition to the tweets directed at VP Harris, Bot Sentinel also examined tweets directed at Republicans, including Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert. Bouzy told CBS News that while the Republican reps face harassment online, the racist language directed at the Vice President puts her harassment on “another level.”
We should all be concerned that a Twitter owned by Elon Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist” will be even less safe for marginalized communities as he removes protections in favor of allowing racist, sexist and homophobic people to let their freak flag fly in the name of the First Ammendment. In an April 26 Tweet, he said in part, “I am against censorship that goes far beyond the law. If people want less free speech, they will ask government to pass laws to that effect.”