Twitter's Holocaust problem
Accounts cheering the slaughter of Jews are in the clear so long as they occasionally delete their pro-genocide tweets.
Twitter plays by a bizarre set of rules.
Verified users who tweet in support of the slaughter of Jews will not be banned provided they eventually delete their pro-genocide messages, a Twitter spokesperson told me this weekend.
“If Tweets are deleted,” the spokesperson said, “we cannot take enforcement action against them. And, we don't get into hypotheticals on deleted Tweets — as in, did they or did they not violate the Twitter Rules.”
In other words, a verified user can fantasize as much as he wants about the genocide of the Jews and not run afoul of Twitter’s censors so long as he eventually deletes his antisemitic messages.
That's a hell of a thing, considering Twitter permanently banned former President Donald Trump in January for insisting the 2020 election was stolen.
“The world today needs a Hitler,” freelance journalist Adeel Raja tweeted Sunday to his more than 80,000 followers.
Earlier, in 2014, he tweeted in reference to the World Cup, “The only reason I’m supporting Germany in the finals is – Hitler was a German and he did good with those Jews!”
Raja, whose byline appeared on CNN’s website as recently as Sept. 2020, also tweeted in 2014, “My support for Germany is due to what Hitler did with Jews!” and “Hail Hitler!”
He deleted these years-old tweets this weekend, along with the one saying the “world today needs a Hitler.”
Raja’s pro-Hitler remark comes amid the recent escalation in hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
“What the Jews are doing in Palestine is similar to what Indian Hindus are doing in Occupied Kashmir. Same tactics," he said this weekend.
“Adeel Raja has never been a CNN employee,” Dornic said. “As a freelancer, his reporting contributed to some newsgathering efforts from Islamabad. However, in light of these abhorrent statements, he will not be working with CNN again in any capacity.”
As of this writing, Raja’s Twitter account is still active.
On May 11, Bollywood actress Veena Malik approvingly tweeted a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler.
“‘I would have killed all the Jews of the world … but I kept some to show the world why I killed them,’” she said in a since-deleted tweet to her more than 1.2 million followers.
Hitler never said this.
Later, Malik tweeted a political cartoon featuring a hook-nosed Israeli soldier staring into a mirror and seeing a Nazi Wehrmacht soldier staring back.
“The irony of becoming what you once hated the Most,” she tweeted on May 14, adding the hashtag, “#IsraelWarCrimes.”
This tweet is still live.
“Netanyahu is a war criminal...!!!” Malik tweeted Saturday.
Like Raja, Malik’s Twitter account is still active.
In contrast, Trump was permanently banned this year from the social media platform for claiming the 2020 election was stolen.
“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future,” Trump tweeted on the morning of Jan. 8, two days after the Capitol riot. “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!"
He tweeted moments later: “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
Twitter then made the decision to pull the plug on the former president’s account.
Trump’s tweet about skipping the inauguration specifically was “further confirmation that the election was not legitimate,” Twitter explained at the time, arguing it considered the former president’s two tweets “encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts."
The social media company explained:
After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.
Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open. However, we made it clear going back years that these accounts are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence.
Twitter claims it banned Trump because he was uniquely positioned to do harm by virtue of the fact he was a U.S. president. Twitter also claims it banned Trump for a pattern of offensive rhetoric and reckless behavior, not just for those two tweets. Those two tweets were simply the final straws. Lastly, the tech giant claims it gave Trump the boot because he failed to delete his offending tweets.
But if this is Twitter’s justification for banning Trump, then how is the Twitter account of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, still active? Khamenei is uniquely positioned to do harm by virtue of the fact he is the Ayatollah. He also has a track record of offensive rhetoric and reckless behavior, including many, many tweets calling for the obliteration of Israel. Most importantly, none of Khamenei’s unambiguous endorsements of violence have been deleted.
Twitter’s official explanation for the difference between its treatment of Trump and the pro-Holocaust crowd only highlights the discrepancy in rules enforcement.
Where, exactly, does Twitter draw the line insofar as calls to violence are concerned?
If Twitter is in the business of policing users who are seen as inciting violence, shouldn’t the rules apply to everyone — former presidents, foreign leaders, journalists, and actresses alike? If not, why not?
Is the delete function really the deciding factor in whether repeated endorsements of violence are considered acceptable or unacceptable by the tech giant? If this is the case, then what are we to make of Raja, whose pro-Holocaust tweets from 2014 were live until this weekend, or the Ayatollah, who hasn’t deleted any of his tweets calling for the destruction of Israel and its people?
Moreover, does Twitter really consider the actress who approvingly "quotes" Hitler less harmful than the president who announces he won’t attend an inauguration? And all because the actress eventually deleted her love note to Hitler?
This can’t be the deciding factor because, again, Twitter has taken no action against the Ayatollah.
Where does Twitter draw the line?
Even with all the possible caveats in place (Trump is more powerful, he has a larger platform, Malik and Raja eventually deleted their tweets, etc.), the broader question remains: If Twitter considers Trump’s post-election behavior grounds to ban him for life, then how does it explain the continued activity of verified users who frequently cheer genocide and Hitler? The Ayatollah, Raja, and others use Twitter to encourage violence against a historically marginalized group, one that is already experiencing a global spike in targeted attacks.
Yet, Trump is the one who has been permanently banned.