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Imagine enjoying a walk in Hamburg, Germany and as you look to the ground, there is an array of hateful tweets spray painted onto the brick ground. You then realize that you’re in front of the Twitter office. This is the reality in Germany because of one man.

Hateful tweets were spray painted onto the ground by Shahak Shapira because after flagging these tweets, Twitter decided there was nothing wrong with them and did not remove them.

Shapira wanted to see what would occur if he flagged tweets that contained hateful speech. So, he flagged “a couple hundred tweets” and to his surprise, very few were removed. He did not stop there, however. He also did the same thing on Facebook. Reportedly, Facebook took down 80% of the content that Shapira flagged using multiple accounts.

Three hundred tweets were reported in the span of six months, and Shapira only got nine emails back all stating that, in Shapira’s words, “were totally fine.”

This is what inspired him to pick thirty tweets and make stencils so that he could spray paint the ground with these tweets, hoping to make a point. Shapiro is an artist and this project of his is called #HeyTwitter.

The tweets included racial slurs, desires to gas other people, and Holocaust denial, which is illegal in Germany. An EU report finds that Twitter deletes less than 40% of flagged tweets. Not surprising, Twitter has also failed to respond to Shapiro’s “stunt”.

Shapira mentions that a lot of people try to defend these tweets by claiming freedom of speech. I agree with Shapiro when he says that, yes, anyone can say whatever they want whether on Twitter or in real life, but there should be consequences when you spread hate against another group of people.

Twitter has become a place where people can laugh at memes, relate to others, debate politics, and connect with other people. The truth is that Twitter has also been a place to spread ignorance and hate. People get threats and get attacked. Of course, this is not a problem only Twitter faces but the difference is that Twitter has done a very poor job in regulating hateful content. Others should take initiative and flag inappropriate content so that Twitter can be a place where everyone can feel safe. I also hope Twitter changes the way they handle flagged tweets and hateful content in general. Thanks to people like Shapira we are on the right track to making it happen. 

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Yahaira Garcia
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Yahaira is a second year Psychology & Social Behavior major at UC Irvine. She loves puppies, her family, makeup, food, writing and watching Netflix. She is also very passionate about social issues and learning.

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