Political Trolling and Suicide Incitement on Twitter

As part of our August 2020 campaign of countering online trolling, this briefing provides supplementary examples of appalling hate speech, misogyny and suicide incitement used to troll public political figures and private individuals. The briefing also explores two prominent female American political figures on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and the frequent misogynistic and hateful content targeting them.

Help us report these examples.

Targeting April Ryan

April Ryan is an American journalist with CNN, having spent more than two decades as a White House correspondent for the network and coveted as “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2017. After the election of President Trump, April Ryan has been a part of fiery and contentious encounters with the President and several White House communications officers. Because of this, she has become a frequent target of fat-shaming, political and racial remarks.

In response to some of her comments, one tweet describes Ryan as a “[f]at pig.”

“I’m surprised the fat moron that is @AprilDRyan can get out of bed in the morning,” one tweet reads, targeting Ryan with fat-shaming remarks.

This tweet below likens Ryan to a “fat pig,” reading: “…she eats so much that she is a fat pig and probably has high blood pressure…” The tweet goes on to say that Ryan “hate[s] AMERICA…” and “American people…”

“April Ryan is a…biased CNN rat!!!!,” another tweet reads. “She is a political whore who has [drunk] too much of the liberal CNN juice…” An accompanying comment insutates that Ryan is a pig and mocks her appearance by writing she “probably [eats] too much pecan pie as well!”

Another tweet characterizes Ryan as a pig, writing in response to a news article that President Trump “…turns a blind eye and a deaf ear [to] that fat little piglet April Ryan.”

In addition to questioning Ryan’s integrity as a journalist, this tweet goes on to fat-shame Ryan as well. “April Ryan will tell any made up lie…to keep her fat ass on CNN that accepts her fabricating BS,” it reads.

“This is what a racist, idiot, (sic) fat pig looks like! Go to hell April Ryan!,” another tweet says.

“The purpose of…April Ryan and that other fat ass Yamiche [Alcindor] [is to] score points against Trump in the upcoming election,” reads one politically-charged tweet.

Another tweet mocks Ryan’s appearance, describing her as a “disgusting pig-looking human.”

Another misogynistic and racist tweet calls Ryan a “bitch,” adding that “…bitches come in all breeds…”

Targeting Kayleigh McEnany

Kaleigh McEnany is President Trump’s 4th Press Secretary, formerly a spokesperson for the Republican National Convention and CNN contributor. McEnany’s tenure at The White House has been contentious, marked by difficult defenses of the President’s various substances. Because of her heightened public status, McEnany has become the target of misogynistic and hostile trolling.

“@PressSec, (sic) you are a c_ _t. Make that KKKunt. KKKaren McEnemyOfThePeople…,” one tweet reads, insinuating that McEnany is a member of the Ku Klux Klan in addition to referring to her as a slur.

In response to one of McEnany’s tweets, one user referred to her as a “Nazi whore.” Another calls her an “ugly, (sic) rotten c_ _t.”

“Stupid. Fucking. C_ _t,” one tweet reads, accompanying the slur with a side-by side photo of MacEnny and an inflatable sex doll. The tweet’s deeply misogynistic undertones seeks to sexualize McEnany.

In disagreement over McEnany’s position that US schools should open in the fall of 2020 as COVID-19 surges, one user questions the stance, asking “FOR WHAT REASON YOU DASTARDLY SOUR C_ _T?” Another tweet refers to McEnany with the same slur, in addition to making fun of her appearance.

“@PressSec, (sic) you are Trump’s (sic) whore…Go to hell,” another tweet reads.

More Suicide Baiting

Twitter’s policy on suicide and self harm is explicitly clear: “You may not promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.” Yet even despite the policy, jokes and incitements to suicide continue to be used to troll and bully individuals. Often used as dark humor, tweets encourage users to commit suicide over petty disagreements.

As part of a long and petty thread, an argument escalates with one user prompting another to “kill [themself].”

Below, in a discussion on the suicide of a 14-year old in Syria, one user promoted another to “go through” what the child did and “kill [themself].” Another tweet urges the same after a political disagreement. While a third tweet demonstrates the extent to which an abuser will go with their taunts to incite a suicide.

Vicious Pursuit to Harm

Trolls will go to any extreme in their vicious pursuit to harm. Their aim is to incite chaos and their words are destructive, even to the point of inciting people to end their lives through suicide. This briefing has clearly shown the appalling hate speech, misogyny and suicide incitement used by trolls.

We implore social media platforms to do more than they are currently doing to detect and remove messages of trolling and hate speech.

We encourage anyone who come across trolling to report the content to social media platforms.

Osiris Parikh – OHPI Analyst based in U.S.A.

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The Online Hate Prevention Institute is a Registered Charity that tackles all forms of online hate. You can support our work by making a donation at https://ohpi.org.au/donate/. You can also join us on Facebook, or join our mailing list.

This article is part of our August 2020 campaign to Counter Online Trolling. We are now preparing for our September campaign to Tackle Racism & Xenophobia and welcome donations through the campaign fundraiser to increase its scope & impact. The full plan for our campaigns in 2020 can be seen here.