Last June our Twitter overlords announced that labeling tweets from government officials that break rules against bullying and abusive behavior will soon begin. At the time it was seen as a veiled attempt toward censoring President Trump’s tweets. After the announcement was made, Twitter’s stock took a 1% hit and ended the day down 1.4%.
Twitter’s new policy is to apply to verified accounts of government officials, representatives or candidates for a government position who have more than 100,000 followers. Trump critics frequently complain about his tweets and many users call for him to be suspended from using the platform. Responding to leftist demands, in January 2018 Twitter executives explained that such elimination of world leaders’ tweets isn’t a good idea.
The rule marks a shift in Twitter’s response to how it handles tweets from world leaders. In January 2018, the company said it was concerned about blocking public access to information from world leaders, even if they seem controversial.
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” Twitter wrote at the time. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
“We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly,” Twitter said in the 2018 post.
While protecting the First Amendment rights of President Trump, Twitter made it clear that it will be harder to share messages that violate policies. There will be no more simple re-tweets of them. There will be the ability to retweet with a comment, though. However, questions remained about what exactly abuses of policy are in the Twitterverse.
Tuesday a blog post was posted by Twitter to clarify “enforceable offenses” that could result in tweets being removed.
“We want to make it clear today that the accounts of world leaders are not above our policies entirely,” the company wrote in a blog post. “This post seeks to provide clear insight into how we address content from world leaders on Twitter today, and will serve as our statement on the decisions we make, rather than our teams providing feedback on individual Tweets and decisions.”
Among the behaviors that could force Twitter to take action include promoting terrorism, direct threats of violence against an individual, sharing private information or intimate photos, engaging in child sexual exploitation and encouraging or promoting self-harm, the company said.
Straddling the fence, Twitter claims it will err on the side of keeping the tweets up, but with a flag so that viewers make their own decision if the tweet is seen or not. The company realizes it is in unchartered waters.
With critical elections and shifting political dynamics around the world, we recognize that we’re operating in an increasingly complex and polarized political culture. These are constantly evolving challenges and we’ll keep our policies and approach under advisement, particularly as we learn more about the relationship between Tweets from world leaders and the potential for offline harm.
This post seeks to provide clear insight into how we address content from world leaders on Twitter today, and will serve as our statement on the decisions we make, rather than our teams providing feedback on individual Tweets and decisions. We’ve also updated our dedicated Help Center page to provide a significantly more detailed breakdown of how we make decisions regarding the use of the public interest notice.
Our goal is to enforce our rules judiciously and impartially. In doing so, we aim to provide direct insight into our enforcement decision-making, to serve public conversation, and protect the public’s right to hear from their leaders and to hold them to account.
It is interesting that Twitter decided to make some clarifications this week and the day of the Democrat debate. Kamala Harris calls for Twitter to knock Trump off the platform while Elizabeth Warren just chuckles when asked if she agrees and says no. Warren even had a line all ready for Harris during the debate on Tuesday night. “I don’t just want to push Trump off Twitter, I want to push him out of the White House.”
Elizabeth Warren is no friend to Big Tech these days. She’s sworn off contributions from the industry, too.
While Warren demurred on joining Harris’s plea, she had plenty of ire to offer the country’s largest technology companies: Twitter, Amazon and Facebook.
Warren called out Amazon on Tuesday, citing its wide-ranging grasp over customers, suppliers and the data that connects them.
“You get to be the umpire in the baseball game and you get to be the team, but you don’t get to do both at the same time,” she said.
Also on Tuesday, Warren pledged to turn down contributions of more than $200 from executives at Big Tech companies, large banks, private equity firms or hedge funds.
Despite the demonization of Big Tech by Warren, Silicon Valley is falling in line and donating to her campaign as they begin to fear that Biden won’t last. We’ll see how Twitter implements the new policy and which “leaders” will be affected.
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