A 38-year-old man was arrested Friday for tweeting death threats against Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), but Twitter’s response has been nonexistent. Not only has his account not been suspended, the dozens of tweets he posted directed at Goodlatte have not been removed.
As Caleb Howe wrote earlier today, Christopher Michael McGowan, a resident of Roanoke, Virginia, was arrested and charged with “one count of making a threatening communication through interstate commerce,” according to a press release from the Department of Justice. Federal law criminalizes threats made by phone or on the internet, which would include tweets.
The Daily Wire reported that McGowan caught the attention of authorities back in December, when he allegedly tweeted threatening messages against Goodlatte.
Stated one of McGowan’s tweets: “I will do this in full belief I am defending the constitution of the United States. I am not making a joke. I will kill him. Should you believe my doing so would be illegal please arrest me so we can have this discussion in court BEFORE I actually do it. Thank you.”
Local law enforcement visited McGowan’s home and questioned him. He admitted writing the tweets but said he did not have any guns and did not intend to actually harm anyone.
This month, McGowan again took to Twitter to air his grievances against Goodlatte, along with another round of threats.
Among McGowan’s tweets that reportedly triggered his arrest Friday were one that told Goodlatte, “you keep f***ing with our constitution and challenging Mueller and the last you see will be my patriot a** behind a gun you should have long ago have prevented me owning pulling a trigger to your head. Want me arrested? GO head.”
Another referred to that threat and then bragged about having “threatened my congressman with violence” and “stated I would kill people” but that he believed he could “purchase a gun three days from now and NOT be locked up in jail.”
As of 7:00 pm ET Saturday, not only has Twitter not suspended McGowan (username @LittleMacMcG), the actual tweets he posted threatening to shoot and kill Goodlatte have not been taken down.
Here they are:
And a screenshot in case Twitter does actually take them down:
Twitter’s Terms of Service are very clear on the issue of violent threats. From their own support page:
Twitter Rules: You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.
Under a section labeled “Consequences,” it states very clearly that the penalty for making violent threats is for the user’s account to be “permanently suspended” or, in “rare exceptions,” they will be “required to delete the violating Tweet” as a condition of keeping their account.
Due to the serious potential for offline harm, we have a zero tolerance policy towards violent threats. Accounts found to be posting violent threats will be permanently suspended.
Note: Given the severity of this penalty, rare exceptions for permanent suspension may be made, based on a limited number of factors. In such a situation, the account will still be required to delete the violating Tweet.
Meanwhile, as stated above, the threatening tweets remain publicly posted, along with dozens of other vitriolic tweets directed at Goodlatte.
He’s also posted tweets directed at other Republican politicians, like this one declaring House Speaker Paul Ryan and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to have faces that are “so punch-able.”
Others said he was a veteran who “[cannot] stand by & will die for this country” in the event that President Donald Trump fires Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which he believed would “make rebellion legal.” A February tweet vowed that he would “kill every person enabling a dictatorship.”
Twitter is a private company. They have the right to regulate the content on their platform as they see fit, assuming they aren’t violating any laws themselves. But if they want to continue to be a media platform for America and the world at large, they need to be more transparent about how they choose to restrict content.
It is understandably frustrating to read about conservatives being suspended from Twitter for conduct that any objective observer would agree does not rise to the level of threatening to shoot and kill a Congressman, or vowing to “kill every person” involved in opposing Mueller, and then see Twitter have seemingly no reaction at all to McGowan.
Let’s not forget the tweet this week from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey declaring that an article calling for the eradication of the right from American political life was a “great read.”
Dorsey’s current pinned Tweet promises that they are “committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”
We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.
— jack (@jack) March 1, 2018
OK, Jack. You want to be publicly accountable? Explain why McGowan’s tweets haven’t been deleted and his account hasn’t been suspended. Explain what the rules really are for suspending accounts. That would be progress, indeed.
UPDATE: As of 12:11 am Sunday April 8, McGowan’s tweets threatening Goodlatte were still posted and no observable action had been taken against his account.
Tweets where a guy THREATENED TO KILL @RepGoodlatte (“…the last you see will be my patriot ass behind a gun you should have long ago have prevented me owning pulling a trigger to your head”) are STILL UP.
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) April 8, 2018
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.