Black Quebec columnist allowed back on Twitter after being banned for anti-racist tweet

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Black Quebec columnist speaks out following Twitter suspension
WATCH: Black Quebec columnist speaks out following Twitter suspension – Feb 16, 2021

After being suspended from Twitter for an anti-racist tweet, Black columnist Emilie Nicolas was allowed back on the platform on Wednesday after being blocked by the social media giant for 10 days.

“I’m grateful for the support I got from my employers who reached out to Twitter Canada,” Nicolas told Global News about being unblocked by the tech company, but said what happened raises larger questions about AI wrongfully targeting marginalized voices.

Two weeks ago, Nicolas, who is a columnist for Le Devoir, CBC and the Montreal Gazette and who routinely gets trolled online, replied sarcastically to a mean tweet that said Le Devoir should replace her with author Dany Laferrière, who is also Black.

“I replied that I’m not racist, but I think Black people are Pokemon cards that media should exchange,” Nicolas said.

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The bilingual columnist’s account was then suspended. She said the social network’s algorithm couldn’t distinguish between racist tweets and her ironic anti-racist tweet.

“After ten days and a lot of solidarity from journalists, guess whose (sic) back,” Nicolas tweeted on Wednesday.

Nicolas said the issue raises questions as to not only AI wrongfully interpreting tone, but, “makes me wonder about the people who may be wrongfully banned from the platform that don’t have the support that I had,” she said.

Researchers have shown that AI has many flaws when it comes to intervening in the lives of minorities because of how how its programmed, Nicolas said.

“If Twitter has the intention to target hate speech, it also risks wrongfully banning anti-hate groups as the keywords are often similar and satire or sarcasm is hard to detect.”

Nicolas said she’s speaking out because she wants the company to know people are being unfairly censored on its site.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

— With files from Raquel Fletcher, Global News

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