Call the meme police: BuzzFeed wants to ban tweets that offend Democrats
The controversy began at President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Among the sea of suits in attendance, a group of female congresswomen stood out, wearing white to honor the suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote 100 years earlier.
Crafty meme-smiths had other things in mind. After Virginia’s Democrat governor Ralph Northam was rumbled for appearing in a photo showing two men posing in Ku Klux Klan robes and a minstrel-style blackface, the internet got to work. A photo depicting the Congresswomen in Klan hoods did the rounds on Twitter, eliciting chuckles from the right and groans from the left.
“All they’re missing are hoods and grand-wizard Northam to lead the way,” read another iteration of the meme.
BuzzFeed intervened, lobbying Twitter to ban the offensive meme. “Twitter is allowing this altered photo comparing women members of Congress who wore white to the State of the Union to the KKK to circulate on its platform despite its own policy that doesn’t allow ‘symbols historically associated with hate groups,’” the news site complained.
Twitter is allowing this altered photo comparing women members of Congress who wore white to the State of the Union to the KKK to circulate on its platform despite its own policy that doesn't allow “symbols historically associated with hate groups.”https://t.co/60aFpx4OJlpic.twitter.com/Z4RVBsFyKa— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) February 6, 2019
However, commenters pointed out that Twitter only bans these symbols if they are used to “promote hostility or malice against others based on their race” or other characteristics. For example, a historical article featuring a photo of Adolf Hitler would not be considered hateful, while a Ku Klux Klan recruitment ad would be.
Wrong. The code of conduct only disallows these images if they are meant to promote racial bigotry, which in this case they are not. That is, you aren't allowed to glorify the KKK, but using KKK imagery in certain contexts is allowed. Otherwise you couldn't tweet pics of Hitler. pic.twitter.com/yXxgiNqYJj— neontaster (@neontaster) February 6, 2019
Another commenter pointed out that under its own interpretation of the rules, BuzzFeed itself should have its own articles pulled from Twitter. Its tireless reporting on hate symbols, hate speech, and now hate memes often features images of swastikas and other racist symbols.
After publishing a supposed scoop on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation, which was denied by Mueller himself, BuzzFeed rang in the new year by announcing that over 200 of its staff would be laid off. All in all, 2,100 writers, editors and other workers at outlets like Vice, the Huffington Post and McClatchy have been given their papers so far this year.
Among internet users tired with hyper-liberal opinion masquerading as news, the layoffs at Vice, HuffPost and BuzzFeed were celebrated. Internet pranksters told the unemployed journos to learn to code,” a reference to the glib advice these journalists gave to blue-collar workers laid off during the Obama years.
The jibes were too much for NBC business reporter Ben Popken, who still has his job, but complained to Twitter about a user who tweeted the phrase to him. The jokester’s account was suspended, and Popken advised thin-skinned journalists to speak up and report such “harassment” to the higher-ups at Twitter.
"Learn to code" was tweeted at me by a sketchy account. I reported it as abusive behavior as part of targeted harassment. Twitter suspended the account within 20 minutes.— Ben Popken (@bpopken) February 1, 2019
Journalists if they tweet "learn to code" at you don't stay silent, take a moment to report it. https://t.co/RXgqqV2ptw
In this case, Twitter sided with Popken and his kin, declaring that repeated use of the phrase “learn to code” directed at journalists amounted to a “targeted harassment campaign” and therefore was against the platform’s rules.
Despite the protestations of BuzzFeed, the KKK meme remains online, and at the time of writing, no meme-makers have been jailed.
Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!