After Twitter refused to delete hundreds of abusive tweets, a German activist spray painted them all over the pavement outside the company’s offices in Hamburg.
Shahak Shapira, who is of German-Israeli descent, says he’s reported nearly 450 homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist posts to Twitter and Facebook over the last six months. A majority of the approximately 150 Facebook posts were removed within three days, but, of the more than than 300 abusive tweets he reported, he received responses to only nine. And each one stated that there’d been no violation of Twitter’s rules.
The posts included tweets like “Lets gas some Jews together” and “hang these lowlifes from the nearest street post,” as well as calls for violence against Muslims, gays, women and people of color.
“[They] weren’t just plain insults or jokes,” Shapira explains, “but absolutely serious threats of violence. Homophobia, xenophobia, Holocaust denial. Things no one should say and no one should read.”
He decided the best way to draw attention to the issue was to take the hate speech off the web and put in the street where everyone—including Twitter—would have to look at it. “I thought, okay, if Twitter forces me to see those things, then they’ll have to see them, too.”
Shapira made large stencils out of 30 reported tweets, then he and several friends used temporary, chalk-based spray paint to cover the sidewalk, stairs and street in front of Twitter’s office building. The next morning several passersby complimented Shapira on his efforts.
“It angers me that most people don’t revolt against this,” one man said. “They just accept it. I think that’s fucked up.”
Another pointed out that it’s a bad look for Twitter to leave abusive tweets in place: “It’s careless to let this happen to your own product. It shouldn’t happen.”
Shapira is working to spread that message using the hashtag #HeyTwitter. “This will never be big enough to visualize the amount of hate tweets on Twitter,” he says, “but maybe we can at least give them some food for thought.”
Learn more about his project in the video below.