Twitter removes tweet by former Malaysian leader for glorifying violence

The tweet followed a suspected terror attack in France on Wednesday, in which three people were killed.

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Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read

One tweet was removed from Mahathir Mohamad's controversial Twitter thread.

Zahim Mohd/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter removed a tweet from former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Bin Mohamad for violating its rules banning the glorification of violence.

In the tweet, which was part of a longer thread about Muslims living in France, Mahathir said that "Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past." The thread appears to have been sparked by a knife attack on THursday that killed three people in Nice -- an incident that French President Emmanuel Macron labeled an "Islamic terrorist attack." 

That single tweet, however, doesn't capture the full picture of the thread, which also cautioned against making broad conclusions about an entire religion. Mahathir said that killing someone is "not an act that as a Muslim I would approve," but later added that Muslims were within their rights to kill French people due to historical injustices. "By and large the Muslims have not applied the 'eye for an eye' law," he added. "Muslims don't. The French shouldn't. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people's feelings."

Still, the tweet served as a catalyst for anger on Twitter, with many people responding to Mohamad using Islamophobic memes and insults.

Cedric O, France's secretary of state for the digital economy, condemned Mahathir's tweet and called for Twitter to suspend his account. "If not, Twitter would be an accomplice to a formal call for murder," he said in his own tweet.

Twitter left the tweet up for more than three hours on Thursday morning before taking action. At first, it added a disclaimer in which it explained that the tweet violated its rules but was being left up because it was in the public interest. The company later decided to remove the tweet completely, although the rest of the thread remains.

According to a spokesperson for Twitter, the tweet was removed for violating its policy on glorification of violence. The policy stipulates that users may not share content on the service that includes violent threats against an individual or a group of people, regardless of context.

Mahathir couldn't be reached for comment. 

He is the latest figure on the world stage to fall foul of Twitter's rules, after President Donald Trump had several tweets obscured for violating the company's policies regarding the spread of coronavirus misinformation.

Ousted as Malaysia's leader in February, Mahathir began his thread with the capitalized statement "respect others." He then referenced a separate terrorist attack in Paris earlier this month, in which a teacher was beheaded outside his school after showing students cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, although he noted he didn't condone the attack as a Muslim.

The attack in Nice was one of two that happened in France on Thursday, and the third such terror-linked incident to occur in the country this month, including the Paris attack. The period of heightened racial tension also resulted in two French women being accused of stabbing two other women wearing Muslim headscarves near the Eiffel Tower. 

The incident also coincided with rising tensions across the country as it prepares to go back into lockdown following a spike in coronavirus cases.

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