More than four hours had passed after Twitter was informed on Wednesday that a far-right news network had used its platform to encourage the harassment of a New York Times journalist, going as far as to provide 1.5 million followers easy access to her mobile phone number — a clear breach of Twitter’s private information policy, which has historically led to suspensions.
This time, however, Twitter froze like a deer staring down a pair of rapidly approaching headlights, unable or unwilling to move.
Holy shit, OAN just broadcast a @nytimes media reporter’s email and mobile phone number while “encouraging” viewers to “reach out” to her and “stand up to intimidation by the left” pic.twitter.com/8IXAxE4EnH
— Andrew Feinberg (@AndrewFeinberg) March 18, 2021
Gizmodo reached out to a Twitter spokesperson roughly an hour after the account of One America News (OANN), a right-wing cable news channel, posted a link to the Times journalist’s phone number in a video encouraging viewers to harass her. OANN had first doxed the reporter in a televised segment, later posted to its website and tweeted out from its account.
Repeated attempts were made to get comment from Twitter — to ask specifically if it planned to suspend the account until the doxing tweet was deleted — but four hours passed with no response. It seemed possible that Twitter was intent on simply, as the saying goes, letting shit slide. (A Twitter spokesperson did respond once hours before publication, but only to say: “I’ll come back to you shortly.” The company was informed of the time this article would go live.)
OANN’s dox targeted a particular Times reporter seen in screenshots aired by the network reaching out to an OANN employee on Twitter. The screenshot showed the reporter requesting to talk via private message, saying she was “trying to get a sense of the culture, what it’s like to work there, how the network has changed in recent years, etc.”
The private message included the reporter’s work email address, which is public information, and her cell number, which OANN chose not to redact.
“Journalists should be allowed to do their jobs without harassment. Our reporter will not be intimidated and will continue to follow the facts where they lead,” a New York Times spokesperson said.
Airing the reporter’s phone number was no mistake. The second time it was displayed to OANN’s TV audience — this time much larger on the screen — an anchor is heard saying: “We encourage our viewers to stand up to intimidation by the left and feel free to reach out to the Times writer.”
The anchor characterised the Times reporter’s invitation for a chat as part of a campaign of “harassment” by the “hate-filled liberal left.” Reaching out to the subject of a story, or seeking perspectives from employees at a company before writing about them, is not only a common journalistic practice, but is typically a requirement for reporters working on a story.
None of the reporter’s messages aired by OANN could be objectively construed as “harassment.”
OANN is a conservative outlet known for pushing widely debunked conspiracy theories about the covid-19 pandemic, U.S. elections, and George Soros, the billionaire investor and Democratic donor. In a now-deleted tweet from 2019, OANN declared itself “one of” President Trump’s “GREATEST supporters.”
OANN did not respond to a request for comment submitted through its website.
Twitter has previously taken action against accounts for sharing links to stories that contain people’s private information, though it has so far chosen not to this time.
In 2018, for example, Twitter suspended a slew of accounts after they tweeted a link to a blog providing readers with the mobile phone number of then-White House adviser Stephen Miller. (Disclaimer: The blog was published by Splinter News, a now-defunct, left-leaning news site previously owned by Univision, Gizmodo’s corporate owner from Aug. 2016 to April 2019.)
A Twitter spokesperson told Fortune at the time that sharing a person’s mobile phone number is against its rules, “including directly linking to that information.”
At time of writing, the OANN tweet doxing the Times reporter had been live for nearly six and half hours.