On the same day that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted a tweetstorm pledging to promote “civility” and “health” in public discourse, the platform did nothing as the daughters of outspoken critic of Islam Pamela Geller were harassed off the platform.
The harassment campaign was started by Daily Beast reporter Taylor Lorenz, who zeroed in on Geller’s daughters, who are non-political Instagram stars, in a report for the news site. The article was titled “The Instagram Stars Hiding Their Famous, Muslim-Hating Mom, Pamela Geller.”
On Twitter, Lorez directed her followers to the Twitter accounts of Geller’s daughters, precipitating targeted harassment of the young women.
After Lorenz initially tagged them in her tweets, the Geller daughters were hit with a wave of threats and harassment from both ordinary and verified Twitter accounts. Twitter has yet to take any action against either Lorenz or these accounts.
On the same day, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey bemoaned “abuse” and “harassment” on his platform, and promised “holstic and fair solutions” to bring about the “civility of public conversation.” This was before many of the tweeted abuse against Geller’s daughters. It is unclear if Dorsey is even aware of them.
In the past, Twitter has banned conservatives and right-wingers on Twitter for considerably milder tweets than the ones received by Geller’s daughters. Conservatives have been banned for saying that Leslie Jones “looks like a black dude,” a single tweet calling a BBC presenter a “c**t,” using the metaphor “take him out” to describe a journalistic hit-piece, vague, unspecified accusations of “violent extremism,” tweeting out statistical facts about migrant crime, and, in one recent case, suggesting that MSNBC journalists don’t understand math.
At a Senate hearing last month, a representative of Twitter claimed that the platform was a “neutral public forum,” implying that the platform enforces its policies consistently, without bias depending on a user’s political viewpoint. At the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) highlighted that the “entire predicate” for social media companies’ legal immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act depends on them remaining neutral public fora. Without the protection of Section 230, social media companies would be legally liable for all content posted on their platforms – an existential threat to their business model.
Twitter did not immediately return a request for comment.