Twitter is allowing an altered photo comparing women members of Congress who wore white to the State of the Union to the KKK to continue to circulate on its platform on Wednesday despite its own policy that doesn't allow “symbols historically associated with hate groups.”
Members of Congress — mostly Democratic women — wore white clothing on Tuesday night to honor the suffragist movement. The image, which first aired on the far-right conspiracy outlet Infowars, photoshopped white Klan-style hoods on the women. Its most popular iteration was spread on Twitter by radio host Mark Simone to his 175,000 followers. It was also shared by Katrina Pierson, a former Trump spokesperson who is a senior adviser to the president's reelection campaign, and by Ann Coulter.
“Who’s [sic] dumb idea was it for them to wear all white?” Simone wrote. He did not reply to a request for comment to BuzzFeed News.
A Twitter spokesperson declined to provide an on-the-record statement, instead pointing to the company’s enforcement philosophy.
“We empower people to understand different sides of an issue and encourage dissenting opinions and viewpoints to be discussed openly,” it says, in part. “This approach allows many forms of speech to exist on our platform and, in particular, promotes counterspeech: speech that presents facts to correct misstatements or misperceptions, points out hypocrisy or contradictions, warns of offline or online consequences, denounces hateful or dangerous speech, or helps change minds and disarm.”
But Twitter’s hateful imagery policy doesn’t allow “symbols historically associated with hate groups.”
Women lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both Democrats, wore white to the State of the Union to make a political statement highlighting issues such as harassment, discrimination, and pay inequality. The idea came from the Democratic Women's Working Group and directed their message at President Trump.
This isn’t the first time women lawmakers wore white. Democratic women made a similar statement through their clothing in 2017.
Trump made several statements during his address about bipartisanship and praising the success of women, including referencing the record number of women lawmakers elected during the midterms last year.
However, those statements seemed to fall on deaf ears of the president’s supporters, who shared KKK-related memes and statuses and amplified the photoshopped image with hateful messages against the women and the Democratic Party.
Women candidates and lawmakers are frequent targets for online vitriol. Fake images and other disinformation about Democrats Ilhan Omar, Nancy Pelosi, and Stacey Abrams was circulated on social media during the midterm elections. Earlier this year, doctored video and a fake photo falsely claiming to be a nude image of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral and was published by the Daily Caller.
“The real question is, at what point is their nonstop, targeted behavior considered harassment?” she tweeted after the Daily Caller posted the fake photo.