Twitter faces quite the backlash after refusing to take down a tweet about Jewish people that many would consider anti-Semitic. The tweet, posted by Thomas Andrews on October 14, said: “Drove through Stamford Hill [Northeast London] today. F*** me the gaffs riddled with full blown Jews. Absolutely vile.”
Within 30 minutes, Shulem Stern reported it as abuse, but was surprised when Twitter responded with “there was no violation of Twitter’s rules regarding abusive behavior.” Although Andrews apologized and removed the tweet – then closed his account to the public – the fact that Twitter isn’t taking such offensive messages seriously has many concerned. Andrews’ tweet, to some, is not too incredibly obnoxious, but read on to see how other foul and racist tweets were allowed to remain, despite protests.
In August, Shahak Shapira, an Israeli-born Jewish comedian, went on a bold campaign against the social media giant. Shapira said he had reported nearly 300 hate tweets to Twitter just this year. Of his 300 claims, he’s seen nine replies – all saying that no rules were broken.
To prove his point, Shapira and friends copied some of the more offensive tweets the company had yet to remove onto large posters and then made stencils out of the messages. The small group went to the Twitter headquarters in Hamburg, Germany with their creative stencils and, using chalk, spray painted the tweets onto the sidewalks, steps, and road in front of the Twitter office.
Pedestrians stared at the hate messages with wide, offended eyes; their mouths hung open in outrage and surprise. In big, white, bold letters, the tweet messages were unmistakable:
“Let’s gas some Jews together”
“Hang these lowlife from the nearest street lamp”
“Kill all the gays and faggots”
Shapira, whose campaign is #HEYTWITTER, said the social media company claims it will notify people when their protests are resolved, but that he did not receive any notification for the Tweets that were removed. Many of the reported tweets remained, and he wanted to show Twitter just how horrible the messages they allowed were to the public.
He chose 30 of the tweets he labeled as hate speech and painted them in such a way that employees of Twitter would have no choice but to see the messages. The tweets appear in large white letters with the tweeters’ names in blue. Shapira explained the reasoning behind his unique protest in his video:
“Okay, if Twitter forces me to see those things, then they’ll have to see them, too. This will never be big enough to even visualize the amount of hate tweets on Twitter, but maybe we can at least give them some food for thought.”
Towards the end of the video, a man is seen cleaning the chalk from the sidewalk directly in front of Twitter’s building. Shapira pointed out that, like online Twitter, the company only cleans up what is directly in front of them while leaving everyone else to clean up the rest.
The demonstration was a creative, non-violent way to address the issue. He did not take to the streets and shut down local businesses, block traffic, and cause riots. He did not break windows, stand on flags, or berate and insult those passing by. His methods were a much more intelligent and effective demonstration of freedom of speech. Too bad there weren’t more people using the same kinds of methods as Shapira. But then, mainstream media wouldn’t have all those juicy violent protests to report on if there were.
Shapira ended his “presentation” with a large painted message right in front of Twitter’s front doors: “Hey Twitter, delete this crap.”
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