Social media companies said on Wednesday they are moving to address reports of online harassment of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in the wake of a deadly mass shooting and subsequent teen activism on gun policy reform.
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Twitter put out a message on its platform that it is taking seriously "reports of targeted abuse and harassment of a number of survivors."
We are actively working on reports of targeted abuse and harassment of a number of survivors of the tragic mass shooting in #Parkland. Such behavior goes against everything we stand for at Twitter, and we are taking action on any content that violates our terms of service.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) February 21, 2018
YouTube said in statement that it has also moved to remove disparaging videos. Facebook similarly removed such content calling "images that attack the victims of last week's tragedy in Florida ... abhorrent".
The students have also responded on Twitter and in interviews.
Others hit back at criticism that they are paid activists — a claim that circulated on social media in the days after the deadly shooting which left 17 dead and 14 injured.
We are KIDS - not actors. We are KIDS that have grown up in Parkland all of our lives. We are KIDS who feared for our lives while someone shot up our school. We are KIDS working to prevent this from happening again. WE ARE KIDS.— Jaclyn Corin (@JaclynCorin) February 20, 2018
Others took on their critics directly.
It is far beyond disgusting that there are people out there claiming we are crisis actors & not real. Do not discredit my classmates & I because we are speaking out. Do not try to move the spotlight off what needs to be talked about; gun reform. You are only fueling us students.— Kyra (@longlivekcx) February 21, 2018
Cameron Kasky, another student at the school and the founder of the #NEVERAGAIN movement, said the tenor of death threats he's received on Facebook has prompted him to temporarily ditch the social media platform.
"Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter," Kasky wrote. "Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt."
Temporarily got off Facebook because there’s no character count so the death threats from the @NRA cultists are a bit more graphic than those on twitter. Will be back when I have the time for it. Busy getting my feelings hurt by fellow teenagers at Br**tb*rt— Cameron Kasky (@cameron_kasky) February 21, 2018
Federal lawmakers have also slammed people who are spreading the idea that some of the students that have been interviewed by multiple news outlets about the shooting are misrepresenting themselves and are actually paid liberal actors.
Claiming some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors is the work of a disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 20, 2018
THIS CONSPIRACY THEORY IS INSANE. Our kids know David Hogg. My wife and I know his mom, who taught at our kids' elementary school before they moved to Florida. Although David is very articulate, he is not a crisis actor.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 21, 2018
He is a student who lost 17 of his classmates to bullets. https://t.co/V9gLgbbdpk
Earlier in the week, Benjamin Kelly, an aide to Florida state Rep. Shawn Harrison, called the students "actors that travel to various crisis when they happen" in an email to a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday. The reporter, Alex Leary, tweeted a screenshot of the email and it circulated widely on social media.
The Times reported that Kelly was responding to a photo of students David Hogg and Emma Gonzales being interviewed on CNN.
Shortly after the tweet of the email surfaced, Kelly was fired.
Tonight Mr. Kelly was terminated from his position as my District Secretary. I am appalled at and strongly denounce his comments about the Parkland students. I am again sorry for any pain this has caused the grieving families of this tragedy.— Shawn Harrison (@Shawnfor63) February 21, 2018
In a tweet that has since been deleted Kelly said he made a mistake and meant no disrespect to students or parents from the school.