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Kenosha News editorial: On Twitter, a belated stand against threats of violence
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Kenosha News editorial: On Twitter, a belated stand against threats of violence

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We wish President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump a full and speedy recovery from COVID-19.

You may not recognize a sentence of that tone in a public forum such as a daily newspaper’s editorial page. Such civility is in short supply in public forums these days.

After the president announced on Oct. 1 that he and his wife had tested positive, some of those who don’t like the president personally or politically took to social media — including Trump’s favorite site, Twitter — to give voice to that dislike in an uncivil matter, wishing him the worst.

Twitter announced on Oct. 2 that “tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against *anyone* are not allowed and will need to be removed. this does not automatically mean suspension.”

The “need to be removed” part was good. But why doesn’t wishing “death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease” merit a suspension?

One of the first comments in reply to Twitter’s announcement: “My life has been repeatedly threatened … and nothing was done. I reported it all; most accounts remain. Not just *wishing* me dead, mind you, but threatening to do it. Was all of that not against the rules?”

And while some people have been wishing ill upon President Trump, others have been going comparably far over the line against some first-term, female Democrats in Congress. Some of you know them as “the squad:” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.

“Seriously though, this is messed up. The death threats towards us should have been taking more seriously by [Twitter],” Tlaib tweeted in response to Twitter’s announcement.

As CNN reported Oct. 3, a quick Twitter search of the four legislators’ names followed by “hang for treason” results in tweets from users calling for the deaths of the congresswomen.

“I hope you both hang for TREASON!” one user tweeted in reference to Tlaib and Omar.

“@IlhanMN you should be tried for treason and i hope they hang you,” tweeted another.

Where were Twitter’s public declarations of zero tolerance when these elected officials were being threatened?

Twitter’s inability, or possibly its unwillingness, to stop people from using its website to threaten others with sexual assault, bodily harm or death is one of the biggest reasons the internet is such a cesspool.

Most of us are capable of disagreeing without being disagreeable. Most of us can engage in political debate without threatening violence.

But then they are the keyboard tough guys.

You know the type. The ones who use the comments section of a news report, or Facebook, or the Twitter reply feature to say things electronically that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. From the anonymity of their computer keyboard or smartphone they launch their threats.

Social-media platforms shouldn’t hesitate to ban people who threaten others. This goes well beyond the polite language of “disagreeing without being disagreeable.” Comments or replies that threaten violence shouldn’t be tolerated.

No, people shouldn’t be wishing death upon the president.

They also shouldn’t be wishing it upon anybody else, and it shouldn’t have taken the president getting COVID for Twitter to take a stand for basic decency.

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