The Twitter user behind an “insulting” tweet against one of the country’s most prominent doctors appears to have deactivated their account following a recent outcry in which Minister of Public Security Marco Mendicino appealed directly to the Canadian leader of the social media giant for action .
Mendicino urged Twitter Tuesday night to address a tweet that was widely described by health journalists and health professionals as “abuse” and a threat to Dr. Katharine Smart, President of the Canadian Medical Association.
Smart had said on 22 dec that the social media giant told her that the tweet “did not violate their rules.”
“All too often, frontline health professionals and health professionals are exposed to bullying, intimidation and harassment. An increasing amount of this abuse is taking place online. The pandemic has accelerated and amplified these trends,” Mendicino wrote in a letter to Paul Burns, Twitter CEO Canada, in Tuesday’s appeal for action against the account.
“For companies like Twitter, it’s important to have rules in place for the use of a social platform. The public needs to feel confident that these rules will be applied.”
That tweet was posted on Smart’s Twitter timeline on December 22 by a user who claimed that “a group of us who can’t stand you have been looking at you and your family for weeks” before asking Smart : “are you afraid” you are the next? “
The tweet also claimed that people who saw Smart, “bit our time.”
Mendicino wrote that the tweet appeared to be part of a series of recent posts offering a “bounty” for people to monitor health professionals in hopes of catching them in breaking COVID-19 protocols.
Twitter, he said, had been mistaken in letting the account stay active and the tweet stay up.
A spokesman for Twitter Canada would not say whether the account behind the “abusive” tweet was removed by the company or by the user. But in response to a request from Global News, the company provided a link to a page on its website that explains the importance of various account announcements.
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The message on that account reads: “This account does not exist.”
According to to Twitter’s guidelines, this message appears when an account has been deactivated by the user – not by Twitter, which would have requested a notification that the account had been “suspended” or “temporarily restricted.”
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Canadian doctors have been more and more vocal about the threats and hatred directed at them over the past year.
Protests from anti-vaxxers outside several hospitals over the summer prompted the federal government to amend the penal code to create a new offense that criminalizes the intimidation of health care workers.
Mendicino cited this law, which will take effect next month, in his letter to Burns.
Health workers advocating zero-tolerance policies for abusing them on the front lines
But Mendicino’s criticism also comes after the government in June introduced legislation that promised to tackle online hatred, only to print an election just a few weeks later.
The federal government continues to face questions about the timeline of a promised successor bill as well as a proposal announced in July to set up a new digital security commission that would have the power to regulate hateful content online.
The Liberals had promised in their election platform to reintroduce legislation aimed at online hatred within the “first 100 days” of a re-elected government, and that clock is ticking.
READ MORE: Ottawa presents proposals for digital security guard dogs to crack down on hate online
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the federal election with a minority government exactly 100 days ago on September 20, but chose a longer wait between the victory and the recall of parliament on November 22.
Since that return, the government has managed to pass four key legislative priorities – including the hospital’s protest ban – but the promised online hate laws were not among them.
The Liberal platform did not specify the terms of its “first 100 days” promise: for example, whether it referred to the first 100 calendar days after winning the election, the first 100 calendar days after the return of the lower house, or the first 100 meeting days after the return of the lower house.
However, a federal official said the government’s 100-day clock began ticking on October 26 – the day the federal cabinet was sworn in for their new roles.
It counts calendar days, not just sitting days.
That would set the government’s self-imposed deadline for enacting legislation on February 3, 2022: four days after the House of Commons returns from its winter vacation on January 31, 2022.
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