Late last month, Jorge Rivas and Patrick Hogan launched a Twitter bot that corrects people who include the phrase “illegal immigrant” in their tweets. Today, Twitter suspended the bot’s account.
Following in the footsteps of the White House and the Associated Press, the journalists wanted to let the interwebs know that the preferred terms for people living in the United States without authorization are “undocumented immigrants” or “unauthorized immigrants.” So they created a bot—@DropTheIBot—that crawled Twitter every ten minutes and replied to people (never the same person twice, to avoid spamming) who tweet “illegal immigrant” with the following message: People aren’t illegal. Try saying “undocumented immigrant” or “unauthorized immigrant” instead.
In an article they co-wrote for Fusion.net, Rivas and Hogan said:
In a country where crimes…happen routinely against undocumented immigrants, and where more than 11 million people are reportedly undocumented, it’s time to stop stigmatizing immigrants through our word choices.
But as of this morning, the account has been suspended. Twitter’s “About Suspended Accounts” page cites three reasons for suspending accounts: sending spam, suspected compromised account, and abusive tweets. A request to Twitter for a statement about why @DropTheIBot was suspended was unanswered at press time.
To say that some of the people who were corrected by the bot weren’t happy about it is an understatement:
@DroptheIBot They broke the law by entering the country. Illegal Immigrant. Then shot someone. I’m not going to PC it for you.
— mailsherene (@mailsherene) July 21, 2015
@Dolly_World @DroptheIBot illegal immigrant illegal immigrant are bad people
— DWIGHT HAROUFF (@GOLDPLATED) July 31, 2015
@DroptheIBot Undocumented Immigrant is LIBERAL P.C. CRAP – Try saying that in ANY COUNTRY outside the U.S. The correct term = ILLEGAL!
— Zarko (@ZarkoElDiablo) July 25, 2015
Race Forward, the publisher of Colorlines, has been a vocal advocate in the movement to stop using the word “illegal” to describe human beings. Rivas is a former writer for Colorlines.