Last week, HuffPo reporter Luke O’Brien revealed the identity of prominent anti-Muslim Twitter account, @AmyMek, in a widely shared exposé. Mek had been known for spreading Islamophobic memes at a rapid clip, accruing prominent followers like Sean Hannity and being retweeted by Donald Trump. O’Brien’s reporting uncovered the person behind the account, “shady vegan” Amy Mekelberg, whose husband was an executive at the WWE. Mekelberg was not at all happy about being reported on, even before her husband lost his job once the story came out. Her followers were not happy either. O’Brien’s piece on Mekelberg unleashed a vocal army of dedicated trolls on a targeted harassment campaign against the reporter, which included numerous threats.
Twitter responded by issuing a suspension–of O’Brien’s account.
Here is just a small sampling of the kind of direct threats tweeted at O’Brien.
Im sure someone will DOXX you and your family soon enough. Only so much people are going to take from the left. Coming close to the breaking point.
— Man_Without_A_Soul (@Withoutt_A_Soul) June 1, 2018
You’re gonna love ur backlash Luke ????????????????????????????????. The thing with blackmail is once you play ur Trump card you got fuck all left. While Amy’s side is just warming up. ????????????????????
— Free speech or Cuck (@FreeSpeechOrCuk) June 1, 2018
It's "embroidered" threats like these that keep me coming back time and again to a hate-free social media platform that has done so much for our democracy. Here's to you, Twitter. And to you, angry seamstress @stevegrogan777 pic.twitter.com/zO3yjRPQMQ
— Luke O'Brien (@lukeobrien) June 1, 2018
So far, neither of these accounts appears to be suspended–only the trolls with the most glaring direct threats were taken offline. Meanwhile, here is the tweet that got O’Brien’s account clamped down on, after the troll army reported it en masse:
DDT… is not a even real violence…. because it’s a fake wrestling move pic.twitter.com/CeIpV9wKcl
— Michael Edison Hayden (@MichaelEHayden) June 3, 2018
The “DDT” is a fake wrestling move, which fits in with the logic of a tweet about a wrestling executive’s firing. Apparently either a lot of O’Brien’s trolls did not understand as much, or they willfully misconstrued it to mean something else. In any case, O’Brien’s account was suspended from Twitter over the weekend, although he managed to get it back late Sunday evening. While most of the people making actual threats were allowed free rein, the person they were threatening was suspended for making a joke that barely resembles a threat even if you squint hard at it. The dynamic at play here further reveals just how far Twitter has to go when it comes to policing threats, and making it harder for Twitter mobs to game the system.