For the overwhelming majority of people who use Twitter, it’s an indispensable tool for a many practical ways, like promoting an opinion, exchanging ideas, or releasing breaking news. Unfortunately, Twitter is also used in less desirable ways such as personal attacks, racial epithets and worse yet, threats of violence.
Zerlina Maxwell, a Democratic strategist and law student whose articles have been featured on the New York Daily News and Ebony Magazine, was recently the focus of the most vile hostility that can be found on social media.
In a bold dialogue regarding the use of guns to prevent a rape with Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Monday, Ms. Maxwell told the news host
“the entire conversation is wrong (on gun control). I don't want anybody to be telling women anything. I don't want men to be telling me what to wear, how to act, not to drink and I don’t honestly want you (Sean Hannity) to be telling me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape.”
Her comments were in response to Hannity’s criticism of Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak of Colorado who “lectured a rape survivor who was testifying that she wished women could be allowed to carry guns on college campuses. Maxwell, who herself is a rape victim, was at odds with Hannity and Gayle Trotter, a Senior Fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum throughout the entire segment of the show. Ms. Trotter, who appeared recently at a Senate hearing, supports the notion that guns make women safer as does the conservative host Hannity.
According to a number of online sources, including Think Progress and the Raw Story, after the show Zerlina Maxwell received hateful racial slurs and death threats. Despite the threats and insults, since taken down from Twitter, Ms. Maxwell remains a staunch supporter of alternative ways to combat rape without the use of a firearm.
Today, the identity of the man who, while working as a bartender, secretly recorded the video of Mitt Romney during his infamous “47 percent” gaffe was unveiled on MSNBC’s The Ed Show. Scott Prouty, told host Ed Schultz why he chose now to reveal himself as the creator of the video partly because the former Republican presidential candidate has re-emerged on the nation’s spotlight and recently criticized President Barack Obama for the sequesters cuts by comparing him to the Roman Emperor Nero. He also shared his concern what Romney will say at his schedule appearance at CPAC 2013.
Prouty chose to surreptitiously record Romney at the May 17, 2012 fundraiser in Boca Raton in part after reading a story on Mother Jones covering Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Romney. The story was critical of Bain Capital’s investment in Chinese labor in addition to the outsourcing of American jobs. During the fundraiser, Romney talked about his visit to a Chinese factory, citing certain living conditions with cheap pay, which influenced Scott Prouty's decision to release the video to the public. Prouty said on The Ed Show that when Romney makes his appearance at CPAC2013, he would rather hear him talk about the American jobs that were lost as part of Bain Capital’s outsourcing and how he plans to help the laid off people.
Like many of his supporters on Twitter, Scott Prouty said he fears death threats he might getting on social media or elsewhere. The current overwhelming tweets are positive, some saying how much the 38-year-old bartender was admired for his bravery and courageousness for coming forward and others calling him an American hero. But there are many others who are angry with him, due to a controversial video that likely contributed to President Obama's reelection.
While this is all happening, there is no doubt that Twitter is monitoring the Twitter feed to remove any insults or threats of violence towards Prouty or Zirlena Maxwell. Just because someone doesn't agree with is or her views, doesn't have to result in racist epithets or death threats. And hiding behind a computer to attack people is a despicable and cowardly act.
Some users of Twitter were banned after spewing their hateful comments at Zirlena Maxwell. Most would hope that there will be no further threats, insults and racial slurs to Ms. Maxwell or Mr. Prouty, but in this day and age of social media, it's highly doubtful. Ever since its inception, Twitter has been a vocal supporter of First Amendment rights. But their membership agreement clearly states that acts of threats or violence may not be published. If this continues, perhaps law enforcement officials will be contacting those who choose to ignore the Twitter Rules.