Canada’s Minister of Public Safety is calling on Twitter to review its online abuse guidelines after a Yukon pediatrician was targeted on the platform.
Dr. Katharine Smart, a Whitehorse resident and former president of the Yukon Medical Association, is currently the president of the Canadian Medical Association.
Smart has been vocal on Twitter about the impact of COVID-19 on children and has garnered over 12,000 followers.
Earlier this week, an anonymous Twitter account, @AsktheBrownDoc1, threatened Smart with ongoing surveillance.
“Are you scared you are next @KatharineSmart?” the tweet reads. “A group of us who can’t stand you have been seeing you and your family for weeks (from a safe distance in public places, of course!!!) and already have some great footage….just biding our time for the perfect time!”
The tweet was in response to Smart condemning a recent trend of “bounty hunting,” in which a $5,000 reward is offered on Twitter for evidence of officials breaking COVID-19 rules.
Smart shared a screenshot of the tweet on Dec. 22.
“Threats, harassment and intimidation are not acceptable,” she said.
Smart continued that she reported it to Twitter and to RCMP, but Twitter told her the threat was not against the rules.
Marco Mendicino, Canada’s Public Safety minister, asked Twitter to reconsider in a four-page letter on Dec. 28. He argued that the tweet “directly” goes against the platform’s community guidelines.
“I am asking you to reconsider your decision to leave the tweet on your platform … because allowing such comments to be published also puts healthcare workers at risk of further abuse and intimidation,” Mendicino wrote.
“If left published and unchecked, the content in question could negatively impact the ability of healthcare workers to inform and provide advice to the public regarding the pandemic.”
Mendicino also referenced the newly passed Bill C-3, which criminalizes impeding health care professionals – including intimidation of workers and obstruction of health care facilities.
“Far too often, public health doctors and frontline healthcare workers are subject to bullying, intimidation and harassment,” Mendicino said. “For companies like Twitter, having rules in place regarding the use of a social platform is vital.”
The tweet has been removed since Mendicino penned the complaint, and the offending account no longer exists.
A request for comment from Twitter Canada was not returned by press time.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org