Last week, Jake Shields—the former MMA fighter and one-time UFC title contender—posted a tweet asking his followers whether they supported public executions for “anyone who helps a child transition? This would include doctors, therapists, teachers, guidance counsellors, etc.” 

“Things are being pushed to such an extreme that the cure is likely going to be just as extreme,” Shields added in a follow-up tweet. 

Shields’ post targeting people who support gender-affirming care for Trans individuals went viral and attracted a deluge of blue-checked Twitter accounts who eagerly lent their support to the call for mass killing of therapists, doctors, and teachers. 

“Absolutely. Hanging or firing squad,” read one of the blue-checked responses; “I volunteer to be the executioner,” read another. 

Twitter eventually removed the post for violating “the Twitter Rules.” However, the social media company also removed all the evidence of blue-checked accounts advocating for mass murder. 

Twitter even removed tweets that contained screenshots of the responses. Such screenshots now contain an empty square along with a message stating that an “error occurred loading this image.” 

It is evidently clear that Twitter is censoring posts that highlight the violent and bigoted rhetoric taking place on the site, especially among its precious Twitter Blue users. And while this isn’t the first time that Twitter’s current leadership has applied arbitrary censorship and targeted removals, Shield’s hate-fuelled posts mark the latest in Twitter’s long list of embarrassing cover-ups.

Ever since Elon Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion (more than double what it is actually worth), the South African billionaire has presented himself as a champion of free speech. He oversaw policy changes that included the removal of legacy verified accounts as part of its overhaul of the Twitter Blue subscription model and antagonized journalists and news outlets over petty feuds. He even coordinated with journalists like Matt Taibbi to publish the “Twitter Files” that suggest the company was overly compliant with government requests to censor or remove content on Twitter. 

However, Musk’s changes have been unsuccessful at best and have helped shed light on how fabricated his “free speech” persona actually is. He banned several journalists from his platform, restored the accounts of far-right figures previously banned for violating Twitters ToS, and shared numerous conspiracy theories on his personal account. His new subscription model has become the laughing stock of the internet and has scared away most of his top advertisers while riddling the site with a cesspool of bigots, trolls, and cryptocurrency accounts willing to pay $8 for a blue check next to their name. 

The removal of legacy verified accounts, which were usually reserved for journalists, celebrities, and notable figures, has made it easier for bad actors to impersonate high-profile figures while making it difficult to verify the authenticity of information on the platform. Content from Twitter Blue users is also being promoted on the platform, which means that bots and bigots are becoming more visible on the site. 

Meanwhile, new reports suggests that Musk’s Twitter is even more compliant with government censorship and surveillance than the previous ownership. Since Musk took over, the company has received 971 government demands and fully complied with 808 of them, further shattering Musk’s crafted narrative that Twitter is a bastion of free speech. 

Despite having six months worth of embarrassing moments at Twitter, the social media company’s decision to censor Twitter Blue rallying behind an MMA fighter’s call for mass murder is among the worst moments in Musk’s tenure. It also emphasizes how the supposed free speech advocate is more than willing to authorize targeted removals and censorship when the content is embarrassing to him. 

In the meantime, while several of the commenters have been suspended, Shields continues to have access to his account. He recently challenged the “10 toughest trans men to a fight” and claimed that “Pedophilia is the next in line to be added to the LGBTQ agenda.” He also has a history of racist and bigoted comments on the social media platform.

Bloody Elbow reached out to Twitter for comment and received an auto-reply from its press email with a poop emoji. 

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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