To properly vent his frustrations with Twitter’s lax hate-speech policies, Israeli satirist Shahak Shapia went analog, spraypainting some of the vicious Tweets he’s received—and reported to Twitter—right outside Twitter’s German headquarters.
By his count, Shapia has reported 300 tweets for containing “serious threats of violence, homophobia, xenophobia or Holocaust denial,” and only heard back from Twitter nine times. “If Twitter forces me to see those things,” he told Inverse, “then they’ll have to see them too.” Hence the big stencils and white spraypaint he brought to the company’s Hamburg office.
The official response to his stunt was minimal. Shapira reported that Twitter employees and local cops cleaned some of the hateful messages from the sidewalk, but left some of them. That means the phrase “Jew scum” (which was one of the nicer comments, if you can imagine) might still be on Twitter Hamburg’s front steps.
Of course, Twitter is the internet’s middle-school cafeteria—a platform that rewards, and was basically designed for, broadcasting hot takes without fully considering them. A libertarian approach to speech restrictions fits into its idiom, and even modest improvements in response time would be difficult just because of how large and active its user base is.
That said, a 3–out-of-100 response ratio is a bad look for them, and they’re already in hot water all over Europe, and in Germany in particular, for their lethargic policing of hate speech. This is already something of a minor crisis point for free-speech activists, because the hateful extremists who target people like Shapia don’t engage others in good faith, and purposely hide behind free-speech protections to attack and harass others.
Something tells me this will be an ever-larger crisis point for a business enterprise like Twitter, and it’s not something they can ignore forever.