On Wednesday, Jon Weisman, the deputy editor of the New York Times‘ Washington bureau, said goodbye to his more than 34,000 followers after a few weeks of being inundated with vicious anti-Semitic tweets. Some of the tweets appear to violate Twitter’s policy against threatening people based upon their religion—one threatened to have Weisman put “in the oven.” The final straw for Weisman was Twitter’s initial response, in which he says that it claimed that none of the offending tweets violated its policies and that nobody would be suspended for their activity.
I will leave @twitter to the racists, the anti-Semites, the Bernie Bros who attacked women reporters yesterday. Maybe Twitter will rethink
— (((Jon Weisman))) (@jonathanweisman) June 8, 2016
Soon after his announcement, Weisman says he noticed a change. “I started getting notifications from Twitter that accounts are being suspended as soon as I said I was quitting Twitter, so yes, somebody is listening,” Weisman told CNNMoney, indicating that he hasn’t ruled out returning to Twitter. “Not all the accounts that I reported, however, are being blocked. I really don’t understand what is deemed acceptable and what is over the line.”
And it can’t help Twitter to lose one of its 310 million users, especially a prominent member of the media, one of the few demographics where it enjoys near-universal loyalty. Despite adding features like Periscope, its user growth has been stagnant in the last few quarters.
Reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson reiterated its policy regarding “this type of content”, telling Fast Company in an email:
“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”
And the spokesperson added:
“This type of conduct has no place on Twitter and we will continue to tackle this issue head-on, alongside our partners in industry and civil society. We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate. In tandem with actioning content that breaches Twitter’s Rules, we also leverage the platform’s incredible capabilities to empower positive voices, to challenge prejudice and to tackle the deeper root causes of intolerance.”