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Twitter bans Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran for saying Trudeau should be ‘tarred and feathered’


Attaran defended his tweet, calling it an ‘obvious metaphor’ and not an incitement to violence towards the Canadian prime minister

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Twitter has suspended the account of University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran after his use of a seemingly violent turn of phrase in a tweet addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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The tweet is part of a longer thread posted this week criticizing the Liberals’ slowness to approve vaccines for Canadian children.

“Health Canada knew half a year ago this was coming,” he wrote.

“Trudeau should be tarred and feathered for putting child lives in danger,” he continued, tagging Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

The tweet follows a comment posted and later retracted by Health Canada Tuesday, which stated that it could take months to approve a vaccine for children. The agency has since clarified their guidance to state that it would instead take weeks, not months.

Attaran’s Twitter account was permanently suspended on midday Wednesday, according to CTV News.

“Your account has been suspended and will not be restored because it was found to be violating the Twitter Terms of Service, specifically the Twitter Rules against participating in targeted abuse,” a letter sent to him reads.

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“In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs on our platform, we do not tolerate abusive behavior. This includes inciting other people to engage in the targeted harassment of someone.”

Attaran said he found the ban “absurd” and is “extremely disappointed.”

“That was obviously a metaphor,” he said. “It was not an actual exhortation to violence. And it’s obvious from the context because I tagged Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole. And I don’t really think that it’s realistic to imagine I was urging Jagmeet Singh and Erin O’Toole to wrestle Mr. Trudeau to the ground, tar him and feather him. No sensible person can read it this way.”

The ban, he said, is indicative of an anti-vaccine bias on the social media platform and Twitter’s lack of action on his own reports of “all sorts of abuse” he has faced on the platform for advocating the COVID-19 vaccinations.

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“I believe there’s a newfound aggression on the part of liberals to attack those who are holding the government to account,” he said.

Twitter, he said, did not send Ontario lawmaker Randy Hillier, a longtime critic of mandatory vaccinations, a suspension notice for his similar use of the phrase in a since deleted  Oct. 2 tweet : “When the Ontario legislature reopens, people should bring a pot of boiling hot Tar and a case of feathers. Each politician who arrives deserves both a tar & feathering.”

“I mean, this is a literal incitement to violence, and tarring and feathering, right. And he’s a notorious anti-public health guy. You know, he’s compared me and others to Nazis for God’s sake,” Attaran said.

Twitter, he said, has already rejected his appeal of the suspension. “This is it, I suppose,” he said.

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Attaran has long been critical of Ottawa’s pandemic response and the slowness with which it negotiated deals for vaccines earlier in the year compared with other countries.

“We blew it,” he said at a parliamentary hearing in February. “When you take the scientific backwardness, combined with the secrecy that didn’t allow outsiders to detect our missteps in 2020, you end up with the disaster we have in 2021.”

Attaran has also previously come under fire for controversial comments posted to Twitter, calling Quebec “racist” and stating that the province is led by a “white supremacist government.”

“The nation of Quebec is led by a white supremacist government,” Attaran said in a Twitter post in March.

He defended his comments to the Canadian Press, stating that the government “treats whites as supreme.”

“Accusing the nation of Quebec of being systematically racist, that is not, to most, a difficult proposition — although it has proven extremely difficult for Mr. Legault and his government,” Attaran said.

“It merely means you treat whites as supreme. And Quebec undeniably does so, as when a government hospital advertises for ‘white women only,”‘ he said, referring to job postings at a hospital north of Montreal last fall.

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