Trolls used promoted tweets to tell transgender people to kill themselves

Feminist activist Caitlin Roper's Twitter account was hacked today. And the ugly, transphobic tweets were promoted.

May 20, 2015, 3:42 pm

IRL

Mary Emily O'Hara 

Mary Emily O'Hara

“Trannies are living a delusion. You can help them escape their delusions by beating them senseless. Go out & start beating trannies now.”

This tweet was one of several that went out on Wednesday morning via Caitlin Roper’s Twitter account. The transphobic tweet was then promoted, likely reaching thousands of people in the process.

Dataminr

Many people were horrified by the tweet, and demanded to know why Twitter would promote such transphobic hate speech. There’s just one problem: The tweet didn’t come from Roper’s Twitter account. It came from one of several impostor accounts that have been repeatedly created to harass her.

“I have been impersonated online before. Last year a man made a copy of my twitter profile, complete with my image and bio info, and used it to offer myself up for sex online,” Roper told the Daily Dot. “Usually it’s in the form of general hostility, unwelcome sexual comments or threats of rape and violence.”

An Australian feminist and member of the anti-objectification campaign Collective Shout, Roper wrote about her experience being a target of harassment on Twitter last October. In the Guardian, she described going to police and being asked, “Why don’t you just close down your account?” 

A colleague of Roper’s was sent home from the police station with “a stack of cyber-safety pamphlets” after harassers published her home address (or what they mistakenly thought was her home address).

Someone took credit for the impostor account on 4Chan just before noon today, stating: “With any luck, I managed to get a few trannies to remove themselves from the gene pool today.” The troll also made clear his intention to get people to harass Roper for “promoting transphobia.”

The troll had posted a message on 4chan one week earlier, on May 13, describing his plan. (Warning: The following language is graphic and potentially triggering.)

“In a few days (i.e. once I get myself a pre-paid credit card), I am going to use Twitter Ads to send out ‘kill yourself’ messages to trannies. Using Twitter Ads, you can send out promoted Tweets to millions of people, and you can target specific people to receive your Tweets. Twitter doesn’t check Tweets beforehand, so I made a bunch of Tweets encouraging trannies to kill themselves, and I customized it so that trannies will be the ones receiving those Tweets.

I’ve already created the account (using the name and photo of a feminazi whore) and set up the campaign. All I need to do now is pay for it, launch the campaign, and then bask in the tranny tears.

Hopefully, I’ll actually be able to get a few trannies to really kill themselves. The only good tranny is a dead one.”

Twitter

The transphobic tweets offended many users, who asked Twitter why such material was allowed to be promoted into their feeds. As of noon today, the account was removed—leaving Roper to clean up the mess.

“I was relieved to see that Twitter promptly suspended the account, but the damage has been done. I’m still getting abusive tweets in response to the hateful comments that have attributed to me,” Roper said.

Promoted tweets essentially work like paid ads: You pay a fee and your tweet will reach selected members of your target audience. According to Twitter’s “Tweet Engagement” policy, a user can define the target audience for a promoted tweet based on factors like gender, interests (such as feminism or LGBT rights), or even people who are followers of other specific accounts. That means that any troll who wanted to target, say, the followers of feminist gaming critic Anita Sarkeesian, could set up a mock account and promote problematic tweets right to her fan base. 

Update 1:48pm CT, May 20: Twitter sent the following statement to Daily Dot in response.

“Twitter does not allow the promotion of hate content, including hate speech against a group based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Once this instance was flagged, we immediately suspended the account and stopped the campaign.”

Illustration by Max Fleishman

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Last updated Mar 1, 2020, 3:21 am