Today, Free Our Internet sent a letter to Federal Protective Service, copying Twitter’s Public Policy team, asking for investigation into the death threats Twitter users are sending to FCC Chairman Pai over the platform regarding “Net Neutrality.” While these threats violate Twitter’s policy, they remain online, despite many being reported.
Given that death threats to other Federal officials over this issue have been made by traditional phone calls and are being investigated, we urge the authorities to take the threats being made via social media as seriously. Twitter and other online platforms facilitate the digital-era equivalent of the phone call and should receive the same consideration as any direct threats made via traditional communications. Below is the full text of the letter.
December 8, 2017
Director of the Federal Protective Service
301 7th St SW # G217
Washington, DC 20407
“Net Neutrality” is a policy issue that has been exhaustively covered in the news over the past several weeks, but the battle is waging even more viciously online. People have taken to Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook to express their opinions on the matter, as is their right under the First Amendment. However, Twitter in particular has been used to threaten the lives of federal officials and their families over this issue. The violent threats against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai are not only vile and extremely disturbing, but must be taken seriously.
Twitter’s policy and rules on abusive behavior are clear, explicitly stating, “You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.” In spite of this, direct and indirect death threats against the Chairman and his family remain online. Further, Twitter removed a small number of threatening tweets only after a news report called attention to the issue, more than a week after the tweets were reported. Dozens of other threats remain on Twitter.
One must question whether the inconsistent application of Twitter’s policy is a result of Chairman Pai’s recent public criticism of the company. Furthermore, Twitter is actively advocating against the Chairman’s order to repeal the 2015 rules, which begs the question, is Twitter turning a blind eye to these tweets because the users share the same general sentiment of the Chairman’s order as the company?
As the FCC vote on repealing Obama-era net neutrality regulations on December 14 approaches, I urge you to investigate these threats. Last week, charges were brought against a New York man for leaving a voicemail threatening the life of Congressman John Katko (R-NY) over his views on net neutrality. In the digital era, a tweet acts as the modern-day phone call, so they should be treated as seriously as threats that are made by traditional means of communication. It is clear that these threats cannot be taken lightly.
While the First Amendment gives us the right to speak freely about policy issues like these, it does not give people the right to threaten lives over a political disagreement.
I thank you in advance for your consideration of this matter.
Free Our Internet
cc: Colin Crowell
Vice President of Global Public Policy
1133 15th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005