Why the mom of a child with a facial deformity fought to take down just one cruel tweet


CORNELIUS, NC. (CNN/KWCH) A North Carolina mother is speaking out against internet abuse after one cruel tweet led her to do what any mother would be moved to do: Protect her daughter.

Natalie Weaver knows there aren't many little girls like Sophia. The 9-year-old has gone through enough surgeries to last a lifetime.

Sophia was born with facial deformities and deformities to her hands and feet. When she was one, she was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder that impairs brain development.

Sophia can't speak, she has to use her eyes and little sounds to communicate with her family. Weaver says that her daughter's conditions sometimes causes her pain but overall she is a happy child.

"She's had 22 surgeries. She has a feeding tube. A colostomy bag. She has seizures and choking spells because of both the deformities and the Rett syndrome," says Weaver.

She calls her daughter amazing. But to some cruel, faceless voices on the internet, Sophia is an easy target for abuse.

"People, they seek you out and want to hurt you. There are people who go out of their way to make sure you see their cruelty. I get people telling me to kill my child, to put her out of her misery."

Back in November, Weaver received a particularly vile tweet: A photo of her daughter, along with a paragraph advocating for coerced abortion and practices tantamount to eugenics.

The post suggested that parents who do not choose to abort a fetus found with abnormalities should pay for "all bills accrued after that."

Weaver reported the tweet and asked her followers to report the post. She decided to fight the tweet because it used Sophia's picture.

"I blocked it. I just hoped it was gone. But it was never removed. The account remained."

She asked people to report the tweet again and even her story to a local news station, hoping to put pressure on Twitter to take the post down.

Twitter said the tweet was found to be "in violation of Twitter rules." But Weaver says Twitter sent her a message saying the post did not violate their policies.

After the post began to gain nationwide attention, Weaver says she got another message from Twitter.

"[They said] they made a mistake. Twitter had it in their policy to protect people with disabilities against hate."

However, Weaver says they told her their reporting tool didn't have enough space to include the disability category as a reason for reviewing a tweet.

"Twitter needs to add people with disabilities as a category in their violation reporting," Weaver says. "Otherwise people don't know the appropriate category to select for hate towards people with disabilities."

She says having a child born with disabilities can be difficult, painful and emotional. But to her, that's not the most important part of Sophia's story.