Fighting words —
Republicans say Twitter video takedown is latest evidence of bias.
Twitter is locked in an escalating feud with the Republican Party after locking the campaign Twitter account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republicans accused Twitter of anti-conservative bias and vowed to stop spending ad money on Twitter until the company relented and restored the @team_mitch Twitter account.
The controversy began after the McConnell campaign posted a video on Twitter showing protestors shouting violent threats at a Monday rally outside the McConnell family home.
“Just stab the motherfucker in the heart please,” shouted one woman in a video that was also aired on Fox News. Another protestor mocked McConnell’s recent shoulder surgery, saying that the senator “should have broken his little, raggedy, wrinkled-ass neck.”
A man in the video expressed hope that “some motherfucker out there” had “some voodoo dolls of these bitches.” Protestors chanted “murder turtle”—a reference to jokes that McConnell has both the physical appearance and the slow cadence of a turtle.
McConnell was understandably concerned about these threats and posted the video to his campaign’s Twitter account to demonstrate the threatening tone of the protest.
But Twitter has a blanket policy against posting content containing violent threats, regardless of the context. Bizarrely, Twitter’s policies don’t seem to distinguish videos posted by people making threats from videos posted by targets of those threats. Both types of videos are banned. So Twitter hid the tweet and locked McConnell’s account, preventing his campaign from posting new tweets.
“The user was temporarily locked out of their account for a tweet that violated our violent threats policy, specifically threats involving physical safety,” Twitter said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“We will not tolerate it”
Conservatives have long sought to portray Silicon Valley technology giants as hostile toward the Republican Party, and they seized on Twitter’s decision as fresh evidence.
“Twitter will allow the words of ‘Massacre Mitch’ to trend nationally on their platform but locks our account for posting actual threats against us,” McConnell’s campaign said in a statement. (It’s worth noting here that “Massacre Mitch” was a slogan blaming McConnell for recent gun massacres, not a call for someone to kill the Senate Majority Leader.)
Republicans on Thursday announced an advertising boycott of Twitter.
“Twitter’s hostile actions toward Leader McConnell’s campaign are outrageous, and we will not tolerate it,” said a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We will not spend our resources on a platform that silences conservatives.”
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports Republican candidates in House races, is taking a similar stance.
The two organizations’ ad spending on Twitter has been relatively modest in recent years—The Hill reports that the NRSC’s spending so far in 2019 has been “in the low five figures.” But the larger risk for Twitter is that the escalating conflict could reinforce many conservatives’ suspicions that Twitter—and Silicon Valley companies more generally—is hostile toward conservatives and Republicans. That could not only lose Twitter some users, it could also damage Twitter’s—and Silicon Valley’s—relationship with powerful Republican officeholders for years to come.