Updated February 28, 2018: Twitter reactivated the Canary Mission account on Wednesday. Check here for updates.
On Monday, Twitter suspended Canary Mission – the account of a defamatory website that blacklists and harasses activists who support Palestinian rights. The reason and terms of the suspension are unknown. Twitter has repeatedly found Canary Mission to be in violation of its rules in response to individual reports, but this is the first visible enforcement action taken to date.
The website Canary Mission, whose backers remain anonymous, now profiles over 1870 students, professors and community activists. Canary Mission frequently harasses these individuals on Twitter with abusive and hateful messages, in violation of the Twitter Rules of conduct. Palestine Legal has encouraged targets of the site to report such abuse directly to Twitter.
Canary Mission’s McCarthyist tactics have been broadly condemned, including in a petition signed by over a thousand university faculty and administrators. Blacklisted individuals have reported being questioned by current and prospective employers and schools about their support for Palestinian rights after Canary Mission tagged them on Twitter. They have been put on leave, denied bank accounts, received death threats, and been denied entry at Israeli-controlled entry points into Israel/Palestine.
Canary Mission violations of Twitter Rules include:
(1) Canary Mission targets other Twitter users on the basis of race, religion and ethnicity. Canary Mission overwhelmingly profiles people of color, especially those with Arab and/or Muslim backgrounds, despite the fact that advocates for Palestinian rights have diverse racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, including many who identify as white, Jewish and Christian.
(2) Canary Mission targets other Twitter users with the intent to intimidate and silence their speech in favor of Palestinian rights. For example, in 2017, Canary Mission began to harass students and professors from Tufts, the Claremont Colleges, and University of California, Irvine in direct response to campus initiatives critical of Israeli policies. The profiles make baseless accusations that criticism of Israeli policy, including boycotts for Palestinian rights, amounts to support for terrorism and “murderous incitement.” Canary Mission typically tags students’ employers and graduate school administrators with the explicit intent of ruining career prospects.
(3) Canary Mission’s targeting leads to violent threats against student and faculty activists by the account’s followers. For example, in response to Canary Mission tweets, followers tweeted a threat to “pay [name of student leader] a visit.”
Liz Jackson, Palestine Legal staff attorney, commented, “After years of cyberbullying by Canary Mission, including relentless tweets targeting people of color with false allegations, we expect Twitter to hold the line in enforcing its policies against abuse.”
As the Twitter suspension may be temporary, Palestine Legal encourages victims of Canary Mission’s harassment to contact Palestine Legal and report any further violations of Twitter’s conduct rules directly to Twitter.