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A doctored image from the State of the Union that portrays congresswomen in KKK hoods has been circulating on Twitter for two days—and the social media platform is letting it happen.
For Tuesday’s address, many congresswomen color-coordinated to wear white to Trump’s SOTU to pay homage to the suffragist movement. It was a wonderful sentiment. As Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley poignantly wrote in anticipation of it, “Tonight, I honor women like #AlicePaul who led the movement & women like #IdaB who were excluded from it.”
It soon spiraled into a joke for right-wingers, though, and after the speech, they began circulating Klan-inspired photoshopped images of the women on Twitter. It likely took off further after conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones shared it in a video on his show.
“You wait until those women are running the country for foreign banks and the Chicoms and up against the Russians and everybody else,” Jones said in the video, shared by Media Matters. “I mean, my God. Look at them. I mean, this is pathetic.”
The images then made their way to conservative websites such as the Gateway Pundit, which referred to it as a “wardrobe malfunction.”
Even those who did not share the photo directly tried to promote a commonly held notion that the KKK was founded by the Democratic Party, which has long been debunked. Experts say although there were overlaps between members of the KKK who were Democratic, the party did not play a role in the foundation of the hate group.
The doctored image still remains on Twitter. BuzzFeed News reached out to Twitter about why it’s allowing this to happen, considering its policy doesn’t allow symbols “associated with hate groups,” but Twitter only responded with its enforcement philosophy, which says the platform “empower[s] people to understand different sides of an issue and encourage dissenting opinions and viewpoints to be discussed openly.”
Judging by past instances, the Klan-inspired images will likely stay on the platform. Last year, a doctored photo of Parkland shooting survivor and teen activist Emma Gonzalez tearing the U.S. Constitution went viral, and Twitter did nothing immediately to stop it while it received thousands of retweets.
Samira Sadeque is a New York-based journalist reporting on immigration, sexual violence, and mental health, and will sometimes write about memes and dinosaurs too. Her work also appears in Reuters, NPR, and NBC among other publications. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School, and her work has been nominated for SAJA awards. Follow: @Samideque