Public safety minister calls on Twitter Canada to address 'abusive' tweet directed at CMA president

Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino has asked Twitter Canada to remove a tweet sent to Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart.

Marco Mendicino writes letter saying tweet poses risks to health-care workers

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, shown in the House of Commons on Dec. 9, has written to Twitter Canada saying he disagrees with the company's decision not to remove a tweet sent to Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart that he calls threatening. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino is calling on Twitter Canada to address a tweet sent to Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart, saying the tweet "poses risks to the health and safety of health-care workers."

His letter, addressed to Twitter Canada's managing director, Paul Burns, concerns a tweet sent to Smart on Dec. 22 by an account under the handle "@AsktheBrownDoc1." 

"Are you scared you are next @KatharineSmart?" the tweet reads. "A group of us who can't stand you have been seeing you and your family for weeks ... and already have some great footage ... just biding our time for the perfect time!"

In his letter, Mendicino said the tweet is threatening.

"I am writing to express serious concerns regarding an abusive tweet that was recently posted to Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Katharine Smart's Twitter timeline and which poses risks to the health and safety of healthcare workers in the discharge of their professional responsibilities," the letter reads.

The letter says Smart reported the tweet to Twitter but that the social media company ruled it did not violate its policies. The company did not remove the tweet.

However, the Twitter account behind it appears to have been deleted.

Mendicino said he disagrees with Twitter's decision not to remove the tweet. 

"I am asking you to reconsider your decision to leave the tweet on your platform, given that it appears to directly contravene your rules, and because allowing such comments to be published also puts healthcare workers at risk of further abuse and intimidation," Mendicino said in the letter.

"If left published and unchecked, the content in question could negatively impact the ability of healthcare workers to inform and provide advice to the public regarding the pandemic," he continued.

The letter mentions that Smart reported the tweet to the police.

Mendicino mentioned that Bill C-3, legislation that recently received royal assent, will soon make it a criminal offence for someone to impede a health professional from performing their duties.

"Parliament's speedy passage of Bill C-3 reflects the urgency of this issue," Mendicino said. "However, we cannot rely alone on the criminal law to solve the problem."

"Social media platforms equally have a role to play in rooting out harmful online content. The December 22, 2021 tweet directed at Dr. Smart, as well as many others within the healthcare sector, highlights the significance of that role," he continued.

In a statement to CBC News, a Twitter Canada spokesperson said, "Abuse, harassment and hateful conduct have no place on our service and are against the Twitter Rules.

"As a company, promoting healthy participation on Twitter is our top priority," the statement continues. "We recognize the concerns health practitioners have regarding social media, and we are committed to creating healthy experiences on Twitter."