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Twitter addresses ‘learn to code’ comments levied at laid-off journalists

Twitter is taking action against targeted harassment campaigns against journalists.


Ellen Ioanes


Posted on Jan 28, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 8:29 pm CDT

On Monday morning, a post on the blog claimed that Twitter would not tolerate tweeting the phrase “learn to code” at recently laid-off journalists. The post claims that the phrase would be considered “abusive behavior” and would be a violation of Twitter’s terms of service.

Media reporter Jon Levine tweeted Monday morning, “I am told by a person in the know that tweeting ‘learn to code’ at any recently laid off journalist will be treated as ‘abusive behavior’ and is a violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service.”

Over the past week, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and Gannett laid off a total of 1,000 employees. The cuts at some of the biggest companies in media were lauded by right-wing communities and even tweeted about by the president, leading to some online harassment of journalists who’d been let go.

Levine later tweeted a clarification but said that Twitter had walked back what it said in its original statement to him.

A Twitter spokesperson reiterated that to the Daily Dot, saying, “It’s more nuanced than what was reported. Twitter is responding to a targeted harassment campaign against specific individuals—a policy that’s long been against the Twitter Rules.”

The Daily Dot asked if the targeted harassment campaigns overlapped with other kinds of offensive content, like anti-Semitic content. Twitter declined to comment on whether the harassment campaigns they were addressing overlapped with any other type of offensive content.

Some of the content levied at recently laid off reporters has been violent, racist, and anti-Semitic, as NBC News reported Friday. That content started on 4chan and contained death threats, reporter Ben Collins explained.

Atlantic reporter Taylor Lorenz tweeted additional context for Levine’s claim.

But that didn’t stop Donald Trump. Jr. from alluding to Levine’s tweet.

“Could someone explain to me why if I tell my kids to “learn to code” it’s likely sound parenting, but if I told a journalist the same it’s grounds for a @twitter suspension?” the president’s son asked Monday afternoon.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro had a similar sentiment.

The suggestion that reporters “learn to code” apparently comes from a series of headlines about pre-existing government programs designed to help unemployed coal miners learn to code, giving them a new skillset in a shifting economy.

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*First Published: Jan 28, 2019, 2:25 pm CST