Thu, Oct 17, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Twitter clarifies its policy on world leaders’ tweets

The Guardian, SAN FRANCISCO

Twitter on Tuesday published additional information about how it plans to act if a world leader tweets something that breaks its rules.

The update followed the announcement in June of a policy whereby the company would choose not to delete tweets by major political figures that breach the company’s rules if the company decided it was in the public interest.

Since the election of US President Donald Trump, Twitter has been in the unenviable position of having the ability to censor the president on the very platform where he is the most unguarded.

It has largely resisted the intense pressure to do so, even when it seemed that Trump’s tweets might have fallen afoul of Twitter’s rules if they had been sent by anyone else.

In September 2017, after Trump appeared to threaten the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Twitter, the company announced that it had begun considering “newsworthiness” when considering whether to take down a tweet.

Trump also faced intense criticism for a tweet in which he arguably encouraged violence against CNN and for amplifying racist misinformation by British hate figures.

The June policy allowed for a scenario in which a world leader’s tweet was bad enough to come down, but merited remaining up for documentation or accountability.

In such scenarios, the company would apply a label to the offending tweet and users would not be allowed to like, retweet or share it, Twitter said on Tuesday.

Social media platforms have come under additional pressure to rein Trump in since the launch last month of an impeachment inquiry and the concurrent escalation in belligerent rhetoric from his personal Twitter account and campaign Facebook account.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren has pressured Facebook to reverse a decision to allow Trump (and other politicians) to run advertisements that include false statements.

In September, US Senator Kamala Harris wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, calling on him to suspend Trump’s account over six tweets containing “blatant threats” against an anonymous Ukraine whistle-blower and an invocation of the threat of “civil war.” (The letter was issued on the letterhead of Harris’ presidential campaign, not her US Senate office.)

Tuesday’s blogpost by Twitter provided insight into why the company is unlikely to concede to Harris’ request. It also included more detail about how Twitter plans to approach such a scenario, although it does not establish any clear red lines.

“We recognize the desire for these decisions to be clear-cut yes/no binaries,” the company wrote. “This is new territory for everyone — a service being used by world leaders to communicate directly to their constituents or other leaders, and at times, announce policy — and every decision we make sets a new precedent.”

The company said that it would be more likely to simply delete a tweet by a world leader if it promotes terrorism, violence or self-harm; involves illegal goods or services; is intended to interfere with elections (such as by posting misinformation about voting); or includes the private information of another person — especially if that person is not a public figure.

Twitter said that it would be more likely to allow an infringing tweet to remain if it breaks rules against hate speech, hateful conduct, abuse or harassment; or if it contains graphic or gruesome media.

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