Rural Ontario politician Randy Hillier is no stranger to controversy.
For much of the pandemic, the Lanark–Frontenac–Kingston MPP has taken to social media to voice his displeasure with the province’s handling of COVID-19,, questioning the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns.
Near the end of December, a Kingston-area physician penned a letter to Hillier disputing his COVID-19 claims.
After over 40 local doctors called on Hillier to stop spreading “misinformation” about COVID-19 and putting his constituents at risk, the independent politician has continued his behaviour online — until Saturday.
Hillier tweeted on Sunday that he was temporarily suspended from Twitter. This came after he tweeted a thread to his nearly 30,000 followers to “shame” people who wear masks.
“We must start shaming those who wear a mask, as they shame others, the masks are coercing us to live their lie. I will not do it, join me in a crusade of honesty, not their March to tyranny. Boycott stores, politicians who lie, do not bear their false witness,” wrote Hillier in a tweet late Thursday night.
The linked tweet was taken down from the website citing that it, “violated the Twitter Rules.”
On Sunday, Hillier was back online, tweeting, “I’m Back! Thanks for all the support.”
“The trolls and bots got a workout yesterday reporting me. To appease the unruly mob Twitter put me in time out. I’m recharged and ready for more.”
That’s exactly what appears to have done, tweeting several disparaging tweets about public health and the Ford government.
So, what happens now for the former PC party member?
According to Twitter Safety on Monday, the website will begin applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to efforts to remove the most harmful misleading information about the virus.
This comes with a five or more strike limit:
- One strike: no account-level action
- Two strikes: 12-hour account lock
- Three strikes: 12-hour account lock
- Four strikes: seven-day account lock
- Five or more strikes: permanent suspension
- U.S. releases video of ‘unsafe’ manoeuvre by Chinese warship in Taiwan Strait
- David Johnston will testify before Parliamentary committee as resignation calls continue
- Conservatives threaten delay to federal budget with 900 proposed amendments
- Quebec in ‘difficult situation’ as tally of wildfires keeps rising, Legault says
Twitter says it has removed more than 8,400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts worldwide.
“If you’re lying to the public, you should be held to account,” said Jesse Miller, a social media educator.
Miller, the founder of Vancouver-based Mediated Reality, says Hillier’s recent tweets have likely garnered a high number of complaints and reports to twitter, resulting in a temporary suspension.
It’s unclear how many strikes Hillier has because of the newly rolled out guidelines, but if his COVID-19 rhetoric continues, Miller says, it will likely lead to a permanent suspension.
“Twitter does take those responses and does analyze them, and if they can see that a person’s tweet is receiving twenty, thirty thousand review requests, that does come down to how they’re being held to account in that space,” said Miller via Zoom.
Hillier’s social media posts have caused a stir — both in support and opposition.
Dr. Michelle Cohen, a family physician in Brighton, Ont., has been reacting to Hillier’s tweets in the hopes to steer people away from “misinformation.”
Cohen says the hyper-politicized pandemic south of the border has bled into Canada, and many Canadians feel they have to take a side.
“I would just encourage people to listen to the science, follow the science, read up on the science and be skeptical about the political leanings,” said Cohen via Zoom.
She went on to say that the public should be wary of COVID-19 information that goes against the scientific consensus.
Global News attempted to contact Hillier for comment but has yet to hear back.