A Black columnist who is routinely trolled on Twitter has now had her own account suspended. She said the social network’s algorithm couldn’t distinguish between racist tweets and her ironic anti-racist tweet.
She’s been waiting nine days to have the problem corrected.
Two weeks ago, Emilie Nicolas thought she’d found the perfect response to a mean tweet. The troll said her employer, Le Devoir newspaper should replace her with author Dany Laferrière.
“I replied that I’m not racist, but I think Black people are Pokemon cards that media should exchange,” she said.
The bilingual columnist who also works for the Montreal Gazette then had her own account suspended. She calls the situation absurd.
“The algorithm or I don’t know, the robot, or the artificial intelligence that manages most complaints probably didn’t understand the difference between me speaking out against racism and me being racist and thinking Black people are Pokemon cards, which obviously I don’t think, as I’m a Black woman myself,” she said.
“It’s not able to discern someone who’s speaking sarcastically, ironically from someone who actually has real intent to spread hate,” said Marlene Jennings, president of Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN).
Jennings has also had her personal account wrongly suspended and knows how frustrating it is.
“I tried reaching out to Twitter Canada, tried speaking to a live, breathing individual. It’s impossible, so I’m still blocked. So Emilie’s experience doesn’t surprise me at all,” she said.
She said she’s also not surprised this is happening during Black History Month.
A 2018 Amnesty International study looked at abusive and problematic tweets received by women journalists and politicians in the U.K. and U.S. It found a total of 1.1 million abusive tweets were sent that year.
Black women were 84 per cent more likely to be targets of that abuse than white women.
“In the kind of work that I do, this kind of harassment is just a weekly thing,” said Nicolas.
Twitter did not respond to a request from Global News in time for our deadline.
Nicolas said she’s speaking out because she wants the company to know people are being unfairly censored on its site.
“This is not about me. This is about all the other people who do not have the type of profile I do,” she said.