Twitter has announced plans to put disclaimers on tweets from government officials, political figures and world leaders that violate Twitter rules but are in the “public interest” to stay posted. The new policy, posted today on Twitter’s official blog, does not mention Donald Trump by name, but the president has come under repeated criticism for seeming to violate Twitter’s community standards.
“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,” Twitter said in its statement. “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.”
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The new disclaimers will apply to Twitter users who are or represent a government official, are running for public office, or being considered for a government position, have more than 100,000 followers, and are verified.
Twitter said extreme cases – direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual – are unlikely to be considered in the public interest.
The disclaimer will read as follows: “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 says that on the “rare occasions” when a disclaimer is used, viewers will have to click or tap through the disclaimer to see the Tweet.
According to Twitter, use of the disclaimer will be determined by a “cross-functional team including Trust and Safety, Legal, Public Policy and regional teams” to determine if the tweet is a matter of public interest. Criteria used to determine if a tweet is in the public interest include whether preserving the tweet will allow others to hold the tweeter accountable for the statements, and whether removal of the tweet would “inadvertently hide context or prevent people from understanding an issue of public concern.”
If a tweet violates the rules and is not found to be in the public interest, the account owner will be required to remove it.
Tweets with the disclaimer notice will remain posted but will “feature less prominently on Twitter,” and will not appear in safe searches, live events pages, notifications tabs or recommended Tweet push notifications, among others.
Trump has repeatedly been criticized for apparent violations of Twitter’s community standards, from perceived harassment of individuals – most recently, Bette Midler, for example – to broad-stroke insults of Muslims. Twitters ban on calling for violence was cited by many critics when Trump retweeted a doctored old video showing himself attacking and beating a man at a professional wrestling event, but with the CNN logo superimposed over the victim’s face.
Just yesterday, Trump, in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, went on the Twitter attack by insisting that Twitter employees “are all Democrats” who “make it very hard for people to join me on Twitter.”
“They make it very much harder for me to get out the message,” Trump said. “It’s incredible.”
At the time, Trump’s rant seemed in reference to Twitter’s decision last summer to remove suspect accounts, but today’s decision by Twitter opens up at least the possibility that the president was aware of what was coming.
The new Twitter rule also arrives as the House Committee on Homeland Security this week held a hearing called “Examining Social Media Companies’ Efforts to Counter Online Terror Content and Misinformation.”
The White House has said it would host a Social Media Summit on July 11 that will focus on the “strategic challenges of today’s online environment.”
You can read Twitter’s entire new policy statement here.
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