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Twitter Will Flag and Display Abusive and Controversial Tweets by Public Officials, Including Trump

in Social Media/White House by

WASHINGTON , June 27, 2019 — Twitter’s trust and safety team on Thursday announced on that the company will “flag” tweets by public officeholders and candidates for public office when they violate the site’s terms of service but will allow them to remain visible on the platform because they contribute to “public conversation.”

The move appeared to address years of complaints from those who felt prominent users, including President Donald Trump, were permitted to violate Twitter’s terms of service and yet still remain on the platform.

“In the past, we’ve allowed certain Tweets that violated our rules to remain on Twitter because they were in the public’s interest, but it wasn’t clear when and how we made those determinations,” a company spokesperson said in a blog post. “To fix that, we’re introducing a new notice that will provide additional clarity in these situations, and sharing more on when and why we’ll use it.”

The spokesperson said the new policy will only come into play when dealing with complaints about users who are government officials, political candidates or spokespersons, and only if the user in question has a “verified” Twitter account that is followed by more than 100,000 people.

When a user whose account meets this criteria tweets something that Twitter finds in violation of its rules, other users will only be allowed to view the tweet after clicking through a warning. The warning will read: “The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”

Whether or not a tweet gets flagged will be up to “a cross-functional team including Trust and Safety, Legal, Public Policy and regional teams,” the spokesperson blogged, before adding that tweets containing threats of or calls to violence would simply be removed as any other users’ tweets would be.

The policy aims to find balance between defending the free speech of public officials and ensuring that all content on the platform meets Twitter’s terms of use, which disallow threats, “hateful conduct,” and potential incitement to violence.

Users of the platform have long complained that these standards are not being upheld, as Twitter has allowed tweets from Trump and other political leaders to remain on the site even if they clearly violate the content policies.

In the past, Twitter executives have emphasized the importance of not blocking controversial statements from world leaders, saying that this could “hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

The new policy announcement comes only a day after Trump, without any evidence, said that Twitter had made it more difficult for users to follow him.

(Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay used with permission.)

Reporter Emily McPhie is studying communication design and writing at Washington University in St. Louis. She is vice president of outreach for her school's chapter of the Roosevelt Network. Previously, she founded a coding camp for children in her community.

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