Twitter has hidden one of President Trump’s tweets for violating the platform's rules about glorifying violence after he called for the U.S. military to shoot protestors of racist violence in Minneapolis. Twitter said it restricted the tweet “based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”
It’s the second time Twitter has taken action to label Trump’s harmful tweets just this week and the first time the company has completely hidden one of his tweets behind a warning.
Unlike the misinformation label, this one hides the tweet in question from a user’s feed unless they click through the warning to the tweet itself. Likes, retweets, and comments of the original tweet have been disabled, though the ability to retweet with a comment is still enabled.
The label states that, unlike most circumstances that violate the platform’s rules, the President’s tweet has been left up for viewing because it’s in the public’s best interest to do so. Twitter has extensive rules about when public exception cases can be made.
Twitter's decision is based on long-standing policies — but it's still coming as a shock to the internet this morning. That's because Twitter's enforcement of its policies and standards is scattered and mediocre at best. We're surprised because, in general, Twitter's response to policy violations by high-ranking officials is ambivalence. We're surprised Twitter took action today because Twitter is not doing enough.
While all this plays out on the internet, riots blaze in Minneapolis, as the city revolts against racism. And Trump keeps tweeting.
This comes less than a day after the President signed an executive order to limit the content-policing ability of social media platforms. Trump continues to push forward a narrative of being silenced, of his constitutional rights being infringed upon, while Twitter does its best to keep the public informed about the truth of his tweets and mitigate overt calls for violence against Black people.
This morning, the official White House Twitter account reposted the tweet word-for-word in quotes. That tweet wasn’t labeled as glorifying violence until about an hour after its posting.
The White House further defended Trump’s tweet by stating: “The President did not glorify violence. He clearly condemned it.”
What’s going on in Minneapolis? — George Floyd, a Black man, died on Wednesday pleading with a police officer to stop kneeling on his neck because he couldn’t breathe. The video of Floyd’s death swiftly circulated on social media, stoking intense anger for the brutal, racist killing.
Four officers involved with Floyd’s death were fired on Thursday, but no charges have been brought against them. Floyd’s family is calling for them to be charged with murder.
Floyd’s death sparked intense riots in Minneapolis, crescendoing into Thursday night as the city’s police officers abandoned the Third Precinct and the police station went up in flames. The National Guard was deployed to quell the riots. Members of CNN’s news team were arrested while broadcasting live.
Twitter must still do better — The President violated Twitter’s rules about glorifying violence and the site took action according to its stated policies. There’s no logical argument that can possibly be made against that action.
But the company’s action ultimately reveals it’s still struggling to evenly enforce its policies across the board. The verified, official White House account tweeted Trump’s exact message again this morning, and it took more than an hour for Twitter to label it as harmful. The number of people that saw that tweet before it was properly labeled probably verges on millions.
Similarly, some of Trump’s false tweets about mail-in ballot fraud — which set off his most recent vendetta against Twitter — are still not labeled as misinformation.
Despite being an obvious super-spreader of misinformation and consistently violating the platform’s rules, Twitter still gives Trump a pass sometimes. We can’t celebrate Twitter doing its job until it’s done properly in every instance and in a timely manner. The company is still very, very far from that.
The reality here is that Trump is using Twitter as an effortless conduit for reaching hundreds of millions of people. Questions of “truth” aside, Twitter finally seems to be recognizing its responsibility to protect users from the adverse effects of that often-unimpeded access. We can only hope it continues to take action when the platform is misused. Not doing so will be deadly.