Twitter has started locking accounts that advocate for capital punishment in criminal cases. We found this out today when we receive a notice from Twitter stating that our account had been locked for violating their rules. The alleged violation was a reply to a Tweet from NBC News about Derek Chauvin pleading guilty to federal civil rights charges in the death of George Floyd. Our reply said simply "they should fry him."
The initial notice from Twitter read, "You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm." From that we inferred that by saying "they should fry him" that we were accused of
wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm." Whoever reported the comment to Twitter concluded correctly that we wish Derek Chauvin physical harm in the form of electricity being pumped through his body by an electric chair until he dies. Doing that would send a strong message to police officers all over the county that when you execute defenseless detainees you too could be executed.
We appealed the lock to Twitter arguing that under 18 U.S.C. 242 (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/242) Chauvin faces a statutory maximum penalty of death. We argued that we were merely voicing our opinion that Chauvin should be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law. Twitter responded by saying that a violation did in fact take place, but we could still use Twitter by logging into our account and following their instructions. Those instructions were directions to click a button which would delete the comment. After we clicked the button we were allowed to use Twitter again.
We feel that Twitter's own rules against abusive behavior should not apply to comments such as ours. The policy says "We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else's voice." It is true that we want the feds to silence Derek Chauvin's voice forever, but our position should be "viewed in the context of a larger conversation." That conversation being what should happen to police officers that murder unarmed compliant subjects by kneeling on their necks for 9 1/2 minutes. We believe that an officer who does that should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In the case of 18 U.S.C. 242 the fullest extent of the law means "sentenced to death." This is one of the most high profile cases in the country. Derek Chauvin is not likely to ever know what we said about him let alone be intimidated into not speaking up, so a policy which claims to have been created to keep people from being harassed, shamed, or intimated into silence should not apply. In any case for which capital punishment is on the table any comment in favor of the death penalty should be viewed in the context of the larger discussion about capital punishment.
Twitter's rules also include examples of exceptions to the ban on wishes of harm. Their exceptions are described as follows:
"We recognize that conversations regarding certain individuals credibly accused of severe violence may prompt outrage and associated wishes of harm. In these limited cases, we will request the user to delete the Tweet without any risk of account penalty, strike, or suspension." - Twitter
Twitter then includes two examples, "I wish all rapists to die" and "Child abusers should be hanged." We feel our comment differs from those examples because those examples are not outcomes permitted by law. Rape and child abuse are not capital crimes, so saying that such people should be killed could be implied as advocating for someone in society to kill them because the government won't. We did not say something that could be construed as advocating for vigilantes to kill Derek Chauvin. In our case "they" clearly meant the court and "fry" clearly meant the electric chair. We should not have been forced to delete that Tweet under this policy just because the lawful punishment we advocated for technically results in "harm" to the individual in that context under those circumstances.