Twitter is losing control of its community. This week, Huffington Post journalist Luke O’Brien exposed an alt-right account, AmyMek, on Twitter. “For five years, the mysterious Twitter account ― which has more than 200,000 followers, including Sean Hannity, Roseanne Barr and the personal account of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and has earned endorsements from Donald Trump and Michael Flynn ― has tirelessly spewed far-right propaganda and, above all, Islamophobia. Around 25 tweets a day, sometimes more, the majority of them designed to stoke hatred of Muslims.”
After running the piece, O’Brien received a wave of death threats and harassment from the alt-right and alt-lite alike. They blamed O’Brien for “doxing” Mek, although he only released her actual name. He did not give personal addresses or any other private information.
In an article by Right Wing Watch, O’Brien detailed the backlash. “I’m getting a lot of death threats. People are on security alert here. They’re trying to go after my family, they’re trying to go after people I have tangential relations to, they went after another Luke O’Brien that they thought was me,” O’Brien said. “I expected some backlash. I didn’t expect these people to start threatening my life before this story even came out. The mission is truly to silence journalists. They hadn’t even read my story. They didn’t even know what they’re responding to.”
Now, in a sick twist of fate, O’Brien has been suspended from Twitter for 48 hours. The tweet that caused the suspension is a wrestling reference saying to, “DDT yourself.” Twitter users were furious about the suspension, which happened last night.
Twitter just locked @lukeobrien out of his account for 48 hours pending review for making a wrestling joke. Dude has been flooded with death threats on this site. What a joke
— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) June 3, 2018
This botched attempt at community management comes just a week after another far right group, the Proud Boys, published personal addresses of Twitter users on the platform. This ultimately led to a member of the group showing up to videographer Vic Berger’s home.
Huffington Post also covered this story. “An in-person visit from the Proud Boys was revelatory. Sure, they and other hate groups online have a predilection for threats and doxing ― publishing personal information online as a form of harassment ― but this was an escalation. They were willing to physically intimidate a Twitter user they found disagreeable.”
“It was scary as hell,” Vic Berger said. “I thought this was all just bullshit from the internet, they’ve always harassed me online. But now they’re sending thugs.”
Twitter’s community issues are an open, on-going Bernard Media investigation. More information will be provided as it is made available.