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Twitter suspends man for hoping Star Wars character ‘dies painfully’


TORONTO —
Will Sloan didn’t care much for the new Star Wars character fans have dubbed “Baby Yoda.”

The tiny character appears on Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” show, and its cuddly appearance is saturating pop culture news.

But all of this hype irked Sloan, a Toronto-based podcaster, so he tweeted his displeasure and it led to him being flagged by Twitter for harassment.

Sloan got pushed over the edge by a Facebook tease for Esquire magazine’s Baby Yoda article, which reads: “The Mandalorian has made Baby Yoda an icon of purity — a rare moment where we cross the internet aisle to simply say, ‘This is good.’”

So out of frustration, last Thursday, Sloan jokingly tweeted at the magazine: “I actually hope he dies painfully.”

Within 15 or 20 minutes, he said Twitter sent him a notification claiming he violated its rules against abuse and harassment.

Sloan was informed he could still browse Twitter and send Direct Messages but wouldn’t be able to make or favourite tweets for the next seven days. In a phone interview, he told CTVNews.ca it was like being in “Twitter jail.”

Within days, his friend Jesse Hawken jokingly started the hashtag “FreeWillSloan” and tagged self-described free speech advocates to hear about how Sloan’s speech was being muzzled.

“Basically it was a joke … and I thought it was funny,” Sloan laughed. “This banning — it just seemed like the absolutely dumbest thing you could be banned for.”


THREATS ARE COMMON ON SITE: SLOAN

In an email to CTVNews.ca, Twitter Canada spokesperson Cam Gordon said, “we don’t comment on individual tweets or the status of individual accounts as a matter of privacy for users.”

After trying to appeal Twitter’s decision, Sloan settled for just reading the deluge of joke tweets supporting him. It was “weeks’ worth of laughs out of this ridiculousness,” he said.

Sloan also used his Twitter accounts for two podcasts he co-hosts to point out that he’d simply threatened a fictional character.

He also pointed out the site’s hypocrisy in flagging him but allowing U.S. President Donald Trump to regularly tweet threats of war against countries such as North Korea, as well as the platform failing to clamp down on sexist, racist threats against elected officials, female gamers or women in media.

“But apparently, the taboo is that you can’t make fun of puppets owned by Disney,” Sloan said.

As for the future, “I don’t plan to wish death on Yoda again,” he said. But as for other fictional characters, “like Twitter, I’ll take it (on) a case-by-case basis.”





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