George Zimmerman, the acquitted killer of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, took to Twitter on Thursday to publicly shame his apparent girlfriend, dox her personal details, post semi-nude photos of her, accuse her of stealing from him, and claim that she sleeps with “a dirty Muslim.”
Twitter suspended his account, @TherealGeorgeZ, almost immediately.
The tweets are now inaccessible, as is Zimmerman’s entire Twitter account.
The tweets included two photographs of a semi-nude woman, her first name, email address, phone number, and face.
A Twitter spokesperson told the Washington Post’s The Intersect that the company doesn’t comment on individual Twitter accounts, citing privacy and security reasons.
But the spokesperson also pointed to the company’s policy banning the posting of confidential information, including revenge porn.
In March, Twitter updated its rules to specifically ban nonconsensual porn (NCP).
At the time, Twitter said that it intends to lock NCP posters’ accounts until the offending material’s deleted and will even suspend accounts if the intent behind such content is harassment.
Its policy says that users “may not post intimate photos or videos that were taken or distributed without the subject’s consent.”
Twitter also moved to put revenge porn in the same category as threats of violence against others on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, age, or disability.
Its updated abuse policy uses the same language as the new revenge porn rules, outlawing the posting of intimate images without the subject’s consent.
Content deemed to be in violation of that policy will be hidden from public view. The users who post it will have their accounts locked until they delete the objectionable content.
If Twitter finds that the content was posted with the intent of harassment, perpetrators will be subject to suspension.
This isn’t the first time that Zimmerman’s tweets have outraged and offended.
In September, he retweeted a picture of Trayvon Martin’s corpse to his followers, of which there were 11,000 at the time.
He followed up with a self-pitying, self-aggrandizing, racist Twitter rant. Earlier in the year, he had also changed his profile photo to an image of a Confederate flag.
Last week’s NCP posts may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to finally getting Zimmerman’s account knocked offline, but they won’t necessarily get him into trouble with Florida’s revenge porn law.
According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 26 states now have revenge porn laws.
Florida’s Sexual Cyberharassment act made first offenses a misdemeanor and any subsequent violations a felony. It went into effect on 1 October this year.
The Intersect spoke with Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami and legislative and tech policy director of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.
Franks is an expert on Florida’s law and has given advice about legislation on protecting sexual privacy to just about every state that’s passed such laws.
Franks told the newspaper that tweets probably don’t violate Florida’s law against revenge porn, given that the photos didn’t depict their subject’s either as nude or engaged in sexual conduct.
In fact, it appears that Zimmerman may have researched the law to ensure he didn’t violate it, Franks said, pointing to a snapshot of a now inaccessible tweet, apparently from Zimmerman’s account, saying that “there were never any nude pictures posted. Thanks for the advice though.”
Still, Zimmerman might yet be subject to civil action, or he might be found to have violated other cyberharassment or stalking laws at the state and federal level, Franks said:
Federal law prohibits an individual from using “the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system of interstate commerce, or any other facility of interstate or foreign commerce” to engage in a course of conduct that causes, attempts to cause, or would be reasonably expected to cause substantial emotional distress with the intent to, among other things, harass or intimidate another person.
The woman would also potentially have grounds for civil action, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, publication of private facts, and/or, if the allegations aren’t true, defamation.
Media outlets haven’t been able to confirm the identity of the woman pictured or to whom the number and email address belongs.
But The Intersect found that a call to the phone number went directly to a voicemail for a woman with the same name Zimmerman used in his tweet.
The Intersect also received a text message from that number on Thursday indicating that the person would make a statement to the media on the matter “once the dust clears.”
Image of George Zimmerman courtesy of DonkeyHotey/Flickr.