You never know when a disgusting creep will appear from a dark corner of the internet. Using its anonymous nature, keyboard warriors are sharing some of the most disturbing thoughts they have, and even little kids can become subjects of their hateful treatment. Recently, Twitter trolls used a picture of Sophia, a severely disabled 9-year-old girl to promote abortion. Her mom responded in a way every mother would – she started a war against hate speech.
Sophia was born with facial deformities as well as deformities to her hands and feet. When she turned one, the girl was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a brain disorder that permanently affects children’s language and motor functions. As a result, Sophia needs her family to take care of her 24/7.
“She’s had 22 surgeries,” Weaver told CNN. “She has a feeding tube. A colostomy bag. She has seizures and choking spells because of both the deformities and the Rett syndrome.”
Everything began after changes to healthcare coverage in their area were proposed. As a healthcare activist, Weaver started to speak out more about Sophia’s condition, and it wasn’t long until trolls targeted the little girl. “People, they seek you out and want to hurt you,” Weaver said. “There are people who go out of their way to make sure you see their cruelty. I get people telling me to kill my child, to put her out of her misery.”
One attacker really wanted to be heard. Not only did they share Sophia’s photo along with a paragraph supporting coerced abortion, they tagged Weaver’s Twitter handle and sent her a direct message.
“I blocked it. I just hoped it was gone,” the mother said. “But it was never removed. The account remained.” Weaver claimed Twitter had even sent her a message saying the post did not violate their policies.
Time passed, but the tweet was still up, and the hurtful account behind it was still active. “[The troll] was mentioning my name and reaching out to my followers on Twitter,” Weaver said.
The original tweet with Sophia’s photo attached to it kept haunting Weaver. She asked people to report it and even told her story to a local news station, hoping to put enough pressure on Twitter it would take everything down. After about a week and a half of nonstop coverage Weaver got, she received another message from Twitter. They apologized, they removed the offensive post, and they suspended the account it came from.
Satisfied with the result, Weaver started talking about the way Twitter review such content. “Twitter needs to add people with disabilities as a category in their violation reporting,” she said. “Otherwise people don’t know the appropriate category to select for hate towards people with disabilities.”
A company’s spokesperson pointed out to CNN the platform’s “hateful conduct policy.” It says, “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” “All of these considerations are taken into account when reviewing reported violations of the Twitter Rules,” the spokesperson said.