Twitter says it will start labeling tweets from world leaders that break its rules

This could be a problem for Trump.

June 27, 2019, 5:55 PM

Twitter will start labeling tweets from world leaders who break its rules about community safety -- a move that could be problematic for prolific user President Donald Trump, the tech company announced on Thursday.

The social media company, which is often criticized for not taking action against hate speech and threats of violence on its platform, announced a new policy that would flag tweets from world leaders who break its community safety guidelines as "abusive." The tweets will, however, be allowed to stay up.

Starting on Thursday, users won't be able to view problematic tweets by the political figures Twitter monitors, unless they click on a screen displaying the message: “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.”

The policy will not be retroactive.

"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," according to the blog post. "To fix that, we’re introducing a new notice that will provide additional clarity."

PHOTO: Twitter announced it will start labeling tweets from world leaders that violate its rules.
Twitter announced it will start labeling tweets from world leaders that violate its rules.

The company would apply the new policy immediately to verified accounts of users with at least 100,000 followers who are government officials, candidates for public office or in real consideration for a government position, such as being "next in line, awaiting confirmation" or being the "named successor to an appointed position."

Twitter said it would developed a team to weigh how serious and imminent the problem was "with an emphasis on ensuring physical safety," preserving accountability for public statements, other publicly available information, hiding or removing context and "if the Tweet provides a unique context or perspective not available elsewhere that is necessary to a broader discussion."

"This policy was a long time coming," Joan Donovan, director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center, told ABC News. "Politicians say controversial things online, some coming closely to hateful and harassing content."

But some experts say the measures fall short of the crackdown many human rights advocates have pushed for, especially in terms of harassment and curbing of hate speech, for which the platform has drawn heavy criticism.

"The need to flag that as abusive without taking it down protects Twitter, as a corporation, from allegations that it is biased against certain repeat offenders," Donovan said. "It may even raise the standard for allowing abusive content to persist from political influencers. Sadly, I hope it does not become a shield for those who continuously break terms of service and don’t get penalized for it."

The company will also essentially downvote these labeled tweets, making them less visible and, essentially, less popular. The tweets will be hidden in searches and notifications and not recommended.

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