- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 2, 2020

Candace Owens, a conservative activist who has been praised by President Trump, had her Twitter privileges suspended on Saturday after urging Michigan residents to defy restrictions Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has imposed to mitigate the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Ms. Owens, whose profile on Twitter is followed by around 2.2 million other accounts, suggested the previous day on the social media service that Michiganders ignore the governor and resume their jobs regardless of the Democrat’s stay-at-home order temporarily shuttering non-essential businesses throughout the state.

A spokesperson for Twitter told The Washington Times that the company accordingly locked the @RealCandaceO account for violating its rules against spreading misinformation about COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The user would have to delete the tweet, which has since been removed from Twitter, and then serve a timeout before being allowed to post anything else on the platform, the spokesperson explained.

Ms. Owens called the punishment an “abomination” of her constitutional right to free speech and said she had contacted Twitter to appeal.

Posted on the heels of armed protesters rallying against Mr. Whitmer’s stay-at-home order from inside the state capitol this week, the offending tweet described the governor as a “dictator” and encouraged her constituents to rebel.

“The people of Michigan need to stand up to her. Open your businesses. Go to work. The police think she’s crazy too. They are not going to arrest 10,000,000 people for going to work,” Ms. Owens tweeted Friday.

A spokesperson for Twitter told The Times that the tweet violated the company’s recently enacted policy against users posting coronavirus-related misinformation on the platform.

Specifically, the tweet violated the platform’s rule against tweets that contain “Denial of […] government body recommendations to decrease an individual’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 with the intent to influence users into acting contrary to recommended guidance,” explained the Twitter spokesperson.

Ms. Owens reacted with disbelief to Twitter’s decision on another social media service later Saturday while appealing the punishment.

“Why on earth would a tweet telling people to GO TO WORK, be a violation of twitter rules?” Ms. Owens asked on Facebook. “This is an abomination of our first amendment rights!”

Ms. Owens, 31, served as a communications director for Turning Point USA before leaving the conservative advocacy group last year. She has since testified on Capitol Hill as well as spoken at the White House alongside Mr. Trump, who has previously lauded her as being a part of “an ever expanding group of very smart ‘thinkers’.”

Mr. Trump has also shared Ms. Owens tweets several times from the president’s own popular Twitter account, retweeting her content at least five times in the last two months.

Twitter has previously taken similar action against several other prominent account holders for violating its rules against posting coronavirus-related misinformation.

Conservative website The Federalist had its account briefly locked in March after it shared a link to an article suggesting people deliberately contract COVID-19. More recently, the pair of right-wing commentators known as Diamond and Silk had their shared account temporarily muted last month after they similarly suggested people defy stay-at-home orders like Michigan’s.

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