Twitter has received criticism for not taking action against certain high-profile users — including, most notably, President Trump — who have posted tweets violating its rules. The social-media company has argued that such posts are in the “public interest” in defending its decision to not remove such violative posts, which would be banned for any other Twitter user.
Now, Twitter said, it is going to display a new notice in front of tweets it keeps on the service under the “public interest” standard that will require users to click through to view the post. Twitter also will not show such tweets in certain areas, including in the Timeline when switched to Top Tweets, in the Notifications tab or Explore section.
In a blog post about the new rule, Twitter said “there are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules.” The company said that on the “rare occasions” when that happens, going forward it will place a screen you have to click or tap through in order to see the tweet with a notice like this: “The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”
Twitter didn’t mention Trump by name, but the company has repeatedly defended its decision to not suspend the president’s account. Critics have pointed out that Trump — who uses Twitter as a primary means to make announcements and weigh in on current events — has violated its policies against violent speech and bullying in several instances.
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In July 2017, Trump posted a doctored video on Twitter from a WWE event showing himself pummeling someone who had the CNN logo superimposed on their head.
Among other ad hominem attacks, Trump in August 2018 called former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog” and a “crying lowlife.” And in January 2018, Trump tweeted, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Twitter received numerous complaints that this violated the company’s policy banning violent speech.
Twitter said it won’t apply the notice retroactively. The new policy applies only to users who are government officials (or represent them), are running for public office, or are being considered for a government position. Users also must have more than 100,000 followers and be verified.
The goal, according to Twitter, is to “strike the right balance between enabling free expression, fostering accountability, and reducing the potential harm caused by these Tweets.”
Twitter’s new warning labels for violative tweets from political figures comes after Trump earlier this week again complained about supposed anti-conservative bias from Twitter and other tech platforms. In an interview with Fox Business Network, the president said Twitter “should be sued because what’s happening with the bias.” He also suggested the U.S. government should sue Google and Facebook.
“What they did to me on Twitter is incredible. I have millions and millions of followers, but I will tell you, they make it very hard for people to join me [on] Twitter and they make it very much harder for me to get out the message.” He didn’t explain why he thinks Twitter hinders his ability to attract followers.