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Public safety minister asks Twitter Canada to remove tweet with intent to ‘intimidate’ CMA president

Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino joins fellow federal ministers as he makes an announcement regarding border measures and COVID-19 during a press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has asked Twitter Canada leadership to remove what he characterized as an “abusive” tweet with the aim to “intimidate” the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

In a letter, penned on Tuesday and addressed to the company’s managing director Paul Burns, Mendicino argued that allowing such comments to be published online puts health-care workers at risk of further abuse.

The tweet appears in a thread posted by Dr. Katharine Smart condemning comments promising a “bounty” to anyone who can capture video surveillance of medical professionals breaking COVID-19 guidelines.

Posted by @AsktheBrownDoc1, it reads: Are you scared you are next @KatharineSmart? A group of us who can’t stand you have been seeing you and your family for weeks (from a safe distance in public spaces, of course!!!) and already have some great footage…just biding our time for the perfect time!

As of Tuesday afternoon, it appears the account was deactivated by the account owner.

Smart had already reported the Dec. 22 tweet to Twitter, but the company deemed it not to be in violation of their rules regarding abusive behaviour.

Twitter lists a variety of examples of abusive behaviour that is prohibited on the site.

Among them are content that makes violent threats against an identifiable target; wishes, hopes, or calls for serious harm on a person or group of people; suggests unwanted sexual advances; includes insults, profanity, or slurs with the purpose of harassing or intimidating others; encourages or calls for others to harass an individual or group of people; and which denies that mass casualty events took place.

Mendicino noted that the tweet “directly contravened” Twitter’s rules.

“By invoking the threat of sustained, surreptitious and exploitative video surveillance, the intent of the December 22, 2021 tweet is clear; namely to interfere with the professional health-care responsibilities of Dr. Smart and other public health officials by discouraging advice regarding vaccination, travel, and social distancing,” the letter reads.

The minister continued that the tweet raises “serious concerns” regarding the company’s compliance of their rules around abusive behaviour and intimidation.

The letter also notes that Smart reported the tweet to police.

The CMA recently put out a call to social media companies to better ensure their platforms are safe places for health-care workers to “share information and advice with Canadians without being subject to intimidation and threats,” which the organization says has increased throughout the pandemic.

In a statement to CTVNews.ca on Tuesday, a Twitter Canada spokesperson said the company recognizes the concerns health practitioners have and are committed to creating “healthy” experiences.

“We have had regular dialogue with the CMA during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have supported CMA’s Mental Health Awareness Week and their vaccine hesitancy campaign COVIDQuestions.ca. We look forward to continued work with them on these and other important matters in future,” the statement reads.

For privacy purposes, the company doesn’t report on tweet-level enforcement measures.

Parliament recently passed a bill that aims to crack down on harassment and intimidation of health-care workers.

Bill C-3 will make it a criminal offence to “provoke a state of fear “or obstruct an individual from trying to obtain health services, a health-care worker trying to fulfill their duties, or an individual who is assisting a health-care professional in performing their work.

Those found guilty of the above could face imprisonment of up to 10 years.

Source: CTV News