Hours after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting Twitter, the social network announced that it had censored one of the president’s tweets for “glorifying violence” against protesters in Minneapolis.
Just before 1 a.m. on Friday, Trump was tweeting about the escalating violence in Minneapolis, a response to the killing of George Floyd by a police officer who knelt on his neck until he became unresponsive, and later died.
Trump initially lashed out at the actions of “very weak Radical Left Mayor Jacob Frey” promising to “send in the National Guard and get the job done right.”
But in a second tweet, Trump labeled the protesters “THUGS” and said Governor Tim Walz had the full support of the military.
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
The threat to shoot the protests was enough to trigger Twitter’s rules and the social network placed a label on the tweet.
“This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” Twitter said in a statement.
But, because Trump is a public figure, the tweet was not deleted, because Twitter’s rules say that tweets that are in the public interest and come from political figures are exempt.
“We've taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” Twitter said.
Instead of being deleted, tweets that are censured like this have their reach limited. As such, Trump’s tweet won’t be promoted by the Twitter algorithm and won’t appear in people’s feeds. Users can’t respond to it, retweet it or like it.
Trump responded on Friday morning by attacking Twitter for targeting “Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States.” and threatening the social network with regulation.
Trump was backed up by Brendan Carr, the commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who said Twitter had abandoned any attempt at a good faith application of its rules.
The latest move by Twitter comes days after it fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets about mail-in voter fraud, a move that enraged the president.
In response, Trump lashed out at Twitter, saying it was interfering with the 2020 election and “stifling free speech.” On Thursday he signed an executive order that will require the Federal Communications Commission to look into the legal protections provided to social networks by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The provision currently means that companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google are not legally liable for the content their users post on their platforms.
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks as he receives a briefing on the 2020 hurricane season in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)