Twitter’s double standards in determining what is hate speech are so stark that they boggle the mind.
Twitter hasn’t yet taken down AAP MLA Amanutullah Khan’s tweet in which he’d implied that Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati have his tongue and throat slit, 11 hours after it was posted. At 9:44 AM today, Amanutullah Khan had sent out the following tweet. “We absolutely cannot tolerate any insults to the glory of our beloved Prophet. This hateful insect must be severely punished by having his tongue and throat slit,” he tweeted. Khan, however, had added a rider in the next paragraph. “But Hindustan’s laws don’t permit us to do this. We trust in the nation’s constitution, and I want the Delhi Police take notice of this,” he said. To the tweet, Khan had added a video of Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati allegedly insulting the Prophet.
Now Amanutullah Khan might say that he believes in the Constitution, but by openly saying that Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati ought to be beheaded, he’s sent out a dog-whistle to extremists who might not place as much faith in the Constitution and India’s laws. A large fraction of the Muslim world believes that Constitutions should strictly follow the laws of the Quran — a Pew Study in 2016 had found that as many as 78% of Pakistanis believed that Constitutions should strictly follow the Quran, while the corresponding number was 52% for Malaysia and 22% for Indonesia. There are almost definitely thousands, if not millions, of Muslims in India who’d subscribe to the same view, so for that particular set, Khan’s rider about following the Constitution has no real value.
The tweet also has many other indications that it could cause real-world harm — it names a specific person, and specifies a certain type of violence, which is beheading. Twitter itself has banned accounts for much more minor infractions — US President Donald Trump was permanently banned from the platform for only appealing for calm, and asking people to follow the laws during the Capitol upheaval.
Most disturbingly, similar calls for violence have had real-world implications. When Kamlesh Tiwari had similarly allegedly insulted the Prophet in 2015, there had been rallies across the country in which Islamists had called for his beheading. Tragically, these calls were heard, and Kamlesh Tiwari was murdered by two assassins in 2019.
The exact same situation is unfolding now. Islamists are openly calling for the murder of another man for allegedly insulting the Prophet, and Twitter is letting these bloodthirsty calls stay up on its platform for hours on end. Amanutullah Khan’s tweet has been retweeted more than six thousand times, and has presumably already reached someone motivated enough to carry out his murder. If something does indeed happen to happen Yati Narsinghanand Saraswati, by having allowed the tweet with the call for his murder to stay up, Twitter — and all its employees — will have blood on their hands.