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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.
On Monday morning, a post on the blog ZeroHedge.com 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.”
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— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 28, 2019
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.
UPDATE:— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 28, 2019
Source was a Twitter spokesperson. Company has issued following clarification.
"It's more nuanced than what you reported. Twitter is responding to a targeted harassment campaign against specific individuals — a policy that's long been against the Twitter Rules"
Just to be clear. They are backing away from what they originally told me. This "more nuanced" business was not part of my original email exchange with them. They also requested that I share this link on abusive behavior https://t.co/WmkL5iUp4Z— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) January 28, 2019
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.
This tweet linked is misleading, wrong. Here's full statement from Twitter spokesperson. If you tweet "learn to code" as part of a *targeted harassment campaign,* that's a violation. The problem is the harassment, not the seemingly innocuous phrase itself https://t.co/9lyKWQRfnP pic.twitter.com/HcBwKgHBbl— Taylor Lorenz (@TaylorLorenz) January 28, 2019
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.
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?— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) January 28, 2019
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro had a similar sentiment.
Our nation’s bravest firefighters must be protected from microaggressions like “learn to code” jokes on Twitter. Pathetic.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 28, 2019
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.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.