Twitter Says Calling Boulder Shooter a 'White Christian Terrorist' Is OK

A tweet describing Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, the suspected gunman in Monday's Colorado supermarket shooting, as a "white Christian terrorist" does not violate the social network's misinformation policies, Twitter told Newsweek.

Many Twitter users assumed the shooter was white before his name was released by police in Boulder, Colorado. Several pointed to the massacre as another example of racial injustice and white supremacy in the United States, coming a few days after a white man killed six Asian women in an Atlanta shooting spree.

Those tweets backfired when police named Alissa, whose family immigrated from Syria and whose now-deleted Facebook pages suggested he was a Muslim. Many conservatives accused the left-wing Twitter users of race-baiting.

Some users have deleted their tweets calling him white. Others have defended their claims, saying they were based on Alissa's skin color rather than his ethnicity.

Newsweek put the misleading posts to Twitter. The social network has been accused of left-wing bias and anti-Christian prejudice in the way it polices speech on its platform.

In January, for example, Twitter locked the account of The Catholic Review, apparently for tweeting an article that described assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Rachel Levine as "a biological man identifying as a transgender woman."

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa twitter white misinformation
Twitter has told Newsweek that tweets mis-identifying the suspected gunman in Monday's Boulder, Colorado supermarket shooting — Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa, a man of Syrian descent — as a "white Christian terrorist” do not violate the social network's misinformation policies. In this photo illustration, the logo for the Twitter social media network is projected onto a man on August 09, 2017 in London, England. With around 328 million users worldwide, Twitter has gone from a small start-up in for the public 2006 to a broadcast tool of politicians and corporations in 2017. Leon Neal/Getty

A Twitter spokeswoman said the "white Christian terrorist" tweet and other false posts did not violate its rules.

"The Tweets referenced are not in violation of the Twitter Rules," the spokesperson told Newsweek in an email. "We will not take action on every instance of misinformation. Currently, our misinformation rules cover COVID-19 misinformation, synthetic and manipulated media and civic integrity."

Twitter's policies on synthetic and manipulated media include deepfake videos that are fabricated to make it seem as if people are doing or saying things that they didn't in reality. Its civic integrity policies forbid, for instance, false claims that the 2020 U.S. election was rigged.

Newsweek sent Twitter the four following tweets for review:

A tweet by @2012izSafe stated, "A white Christian Terrorist killed ten innocent people with a gun in a grocery store, Colrado, USA."

A white Christian Terrorist killed ten innocent people with a gun in a grocery store, Colrado, USA.@BBCWorld @BBCBreaking @FoxNews @AJENews @AJEnglish @cnni @CNN @nytimes @Forbes

— SoHaiL SaNi🇵🇰🇹🇷🇵🇸 (@2012izSafe) March 23, 2021

Actress Rosanna Arquette wrote, "Call it what it is ..White supremacist domestic terrorism."

Call it what it is ..White supremacist domestic terrorism

— ✌🏼rosanna arquette (@RoArquette) March 22, 2021

Former Democratic Virginia congressional nominee Qasim Rashid wrote, "Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black child. Police shot him in 1.7 sec & let him suffer in agonizing pain for 4 min & die. Colorado terrorist is a grown white man who killed 10 people including a cop. Cops arrested him alive & helped him to a stretcher for immediate medical care."

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old black child. Police shot him in 1.7 sec & let him suffer in agonizing pain for 4 min & die.

Colorado terrorist is a grown white man who killed 10 people including a cop. Cops arrested him alive & helped him to a stretcher for immediate medical care.

— Qasim Rashid, Esq. قاسم رشید (@QasimRashid) March 23, 2021

Michael Harriot, a senior writer at the Black news and culture website The Root, wrote, "Pointing out how white suspects get the benefit of the doubt without being stopped, frisked, beaten, shot or killed is not a call for harsh treatment. It simply means we KNOW cops are capable of treating ppl humanely....just not us."

Pointing out how white suspects get the benefit of the doubt without being stopped, frisked, beaten, shot or killed is not a call for harsh treatment

It simply means we KNOW cops are capable of treating ppl humanely....just not us

y’all could use a few more ass-whoopings, tho

— Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) March 22, 2021

Newsweek has reached out to the authors of the tweets referenced above for comment.

"Actually, this tweet was not referencing the Colorado shooter (I was not aware of the shooting when I tweeted this and I don't even think he was captured)," Harriot told Newsweek. "But to the greater point, I think people aren't aware that 'Muslim' is not a race."

In an email, Rashid wrote Newsweek, "The US Census Bureau and law enforcement define Syrians as white." He then sent a link to the Census Bureau that defines the white race as "A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa."

Based on that, Rashid refuted any suggestion that what he tweeted was disinformation.

On Monday, Meena Harris, the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, published a now-deleted tweet blaming white men for the Boulder, Colorado shooting. It had over 6,500 retweets and 35,700 likes before she deleted it.

"The Atlanta shooting was not even a week ago. Violent white men are the greatest terrorist threat to our country," Harris wrote in the tweet.

Its ok @meenaharris I kept it safe for you #fuckthemwhites pic.twitter.com/hCVbp9VjxT

— Alex Chopper (@Chopperholic) March 23, 2021

Soon after deleting her tweet, Harris wrote on Twitter, "I deleted a previous tweet about the suspect in the Boulder shooting. I made an assumption based on his being taken into custody alive and the fact that the majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are carried out by white men."

White shooters have accounted for 66 of 121 mass shootings that have occurred from 1982 to 2021, according to the German statistical data firm Statista.

Various Twitter users accused left-wingers of trying to push an anti-white narrative by presuming that the shooter was white. Others criticized those who presumed that the shooter was white for later refusing to comment on the suspect's Middle Eastern ethnicity.

Update (3/25/2020, 12:30 a.m.): This article has been updated to include statements from Harriot and Rashid.