Have you ever seen something on social media that just tore at your heartstrings?
What if it was a meme of someone who had a deformity or a health problem and was being made fun of? What if it was a photo of a disabled child that was meant to be an example of the type of baby that should be aborted?
Now, what if the photo was of your child? This happened to the Weaver family. They fought to have the photo removed and found themselves in a battle against hate speech.
When she was just a year old, she was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a brain disorder that permanently affects children’s language and motor functions. The family was told that she would need a lot of surgery and 24/7 care. Her mother talked about some of Sophia’s health problems, saying:
“She’s had 22 surgeries. She has a feeding tube. A colostomy bag. She has seizures and choking spells because of both the deformities and the Rett syndrome.”
Sophia is now 9 years old. Her parents also fight for her right to healthcare.
When changes to healthcare laws started happening in their area, Sophia’s mom, Natalie, started speaking up for her daughter. Sophia deserved healthcare, and Natalie felt that if people knew more about her condition, they would understand why it was so important for her and others like her to have healthcare coverage.
She was getting threats and a lot of hate mail. She explained:
“There are people who go out of their way to make sure you see their cruelty. I get people telling me to kill my child, to put her out of her misery.”
Then, things got worse. Someone used a photo of Natalie’s daughter and added it next to a paragraph about the benefits of abortion. They were basically saying that Natalie should have aborted her daughter because of her health problems.
“I blocked it. I just hoped it was gone. But it was never removed. The account remained.”
She even explained her situation and told them that Sophia was her child. Twitter refused to remove the photo because they claimed that it didn’t violate their terms.
“[The troll] was mentioning my name and reaching out to my followers on Twitter.”
She continued to ask Twitter to remove the photo and was appalled that staff members were choosing not to do it. She felt like they didn’t have any respect for her daughter and that their terms were not meant to include people with disabilities.
“Twitter needs to add people with disabilities as a category in their violation reporting. Otherwise, people don’t know the appropriate category to select for hate towards people with disabilities.”
“You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.”
Eventually, Natalie began asking other people to encourage Twitter to take down the image. Her friends, followers, and strangers who agreed with her all tried to help. Eventually, Twitter did the right thing and removed the photo and suspended the troll’s account. The staff also sent Natalie an email apologizing that they hadn’t done it sooner.
Weaver was grateful, as were all of her supporters.
Natalie will likely always have to fight to make sure her daughter is treated fairly, but she is prepared to do so as her mother. Hopefully, others will help fight for her, as well, and for the rights of other people with disabilities.
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