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For years, Twitter has been accused of having one set of rules for ordinary users and another for world leaders like President Donald Trump. Now, this Twitter account, which copies and reposts Trump’s tweets word for word, is proving the point.
The account was suspended within three days after it posted the now-infamous Trump tweet warning that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
While Trump got a slap on the wrist from Twitter, and his tweet was hidden behind a warning message, @SuspendthePres had their account temporarily locked until they deleted the tweet.
The person behind the social media experiment, who would not reveal any information about themselves but who also tweets as @BizarreLazar, told VICE News it was Trump’s own effort to target companies like Twitter that inspired the idea.
“I decided to run this experiment right after the President issued his executive order against social media,” SuspendthePres said in a direct message to VICE News. “I wanted to see for myself if he was indeed violating the Terms of Service. Figured what better way to test out the hypothesis than to see if they suspended me for the exact same language.”
The executive order, which Trump signed on May 28, requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into the legal protections provided to social networks by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Under the act, companies like Twitter, Facebook and Google are not legally liable for the content their users post on their platforms.
After the account was locked, SuspendthePres deleted the offending tweet, and 12 hours later they got back control of haccount.
A Twitter spokesperson said it has been clear about how it differentiates between actions against world leaders and the rest of Twitter’s users, pointing out the rule had been in place since last summer.
The company also disputed the assertion that the account was “suspended,” saying instead that the user was “temporarily locked out for violating our glorification of violence policy” — but the person running the account isn’t convinced.
“If that’s what they want to name completely suspending an account for a limited timeframe so be it. The screenshots show that as well. Suspension of nearly all account features and deletion of content felt pretty suspended to me.”
The experiment proved its point pretty quickly, but the person behind the account is planning to continue copying Trump’s tweets because there are more questions to be answered.
“I think the experiment has raised a whole host of additional questions that I’d like to find the answers to,” they said. “Will Twitter continue to find the tweets in violation? How many times? How long does it take in general to remove offending content from the platform? Will Twitter shutdown the experiment permanently? Will Twitter be more/less/equally lenient towards future Presidents?”
Twitter has not contacted the person directly — aside from telling him his account was suspended — but the person did claim that an unnamed former Twitter employee had been in contact, to find out if the account was automated, raising questions about whether Twitter could use that as an excuse to remove the account.
“I made it clear that no, everything is posted manually. I want the content to speak for itself,” SuspendthePres said.
Cover: A tweet by US president Donald Trump is seen being flagged as inciting violence by Twitter in this photo illustration on an Apple iPhone on May 29, 2020. (Photo by Jaap Arriens / Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)