Twitter said it is “deeply sorry” for failing to act on threatening tweets made by Cesar Sayoc, Jr., the 56-year-old Florida man who is suspected of sending improvised explosive devices to Democratic leaders and critics of President Donald Trump.
On October 11, Sayoc published a threatening tweet to former congressional press secretary Rochelle Ritchie by telling her “We will see you 4 sure.” Ritchie alerted Twitter of the tweet made from Sayoc’s account, which contained several disturbing images and statements.
“Hug your loved ones real close every time you leave you [sic] home,” Sayoc said in the tweet with Ritchie’s picture and a screenshot of a news story of a dead teenager.
Ritchie, who called the tweet a “bad idea,” reported the incident to the company. Twitter, in what appeared to be a boilerplate statement, said it “carefully” reviewed her case but “found that there was no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behavior,” according to a screenshot uploaded by Ritchie.
On Friday, police arrested and charged Sayoc, a pro-Trump activist seen attending a Trump campaign rally in 2017. His suspected social media accounts also featured threatening messages to other Trump critics, including those whose names were on the explosive packages sent to Democratic lawmakers.
Ritchie complained to Twitter after Sayoc’s tweets were publicized: “Hey @Twitter remember when I reported the guy who was making threats towards me after my appearance on @FoxNews and you guys sent back a bs response about how you didn’t find it that serious. Well guess what it’s the guy who has been sending #bombs to high profile politicians!!!!”
By Friday afternoon, Sayoc’s Twitter account was suspended.
“We made a mistake when Rochelle Ritchie first alerted us to the threat made against her,” the company said in a statement. “The Tweet clearly violated our rules and should have been removed. We are deeply sorry for that error.”
“We are investigating what happened and will continue to work to improve how we handle concerns raised by anyone on Twitter,” the company added. “We want Twitter to be a place where people feel safe, and we know we have lot of work to do.”
Twitter and other social media giants have been criticized for not acting more decisively in regulating its platforms. Critics have alleged that unregulated content from fringe political groups and users promotes fake news, hate speech, or other harmful content.
Despite public pressure to more broadly moderate user content, CEOs, like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, have suggested it would stand firm on its policies.