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Twitter to Label Tweets by Leaders Who Break Its Rules

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Jun 29, 2019 - 07:05 AM

Twitter will begin labeling tweets by world leaders that violate its rules, but that it says still serve the “public interest,” the company announced in a blog post Thursday. The function will apply only to verified government officials and political candidates with over 100,000 followers.

Twitter’s rules ban content that glorifies or encourages violence, promotes terrorism or carries out targeted harassment of other users. In the past, the company kept tweets by world leaders on the platform even when they broke the rules. The new disclaimers, Twitter said, are meant to clarify how decisions are made about keeping offending tweets online.

“Our highest priority is to protect the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” the blog post says. “An important part of that is ensuring our rules and how we enforce them are easy to understand.”

The decision to remove a tweet will depend on its potential to cause harm, particularly physical, its potential to provide context and unique perspectives to users, and its value in holding the official responsible.

“A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable,” says the post.

A task force with representatives from Twitter’s trust and safety, legal, public policy and regional teams will make decisions regarding rule-breaking tweets by world leaders.

If a tweet is marked, Twitter’s algorithms and search functions won’t actively spread the content, ensuring fewer people see it. Users won’t get push notifications and won’t be able to see labeled tweets in safe search, top tweets, live events pages or the explore function.

Response to Trump?

Some published reports tie the new disclaimers to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has run afoul of Twitter’s rules before. He could find some of his own tweets slapped with a disclaimer. A Twitter spokesperson told Buzzfeed News that the move wasn’t aimed at any particular leader.

Though meant to clarify Twitter’s decision-making process, the new policy could leave the company vulnerable to criticism from people with views that violate its rules. Some conservatives, including the president, have lambasted the platform for what they view as censorship of their speech.

“They [Twitter] make it very hard for people to join me on Twitter and they make it very much harder for me to get out the message,” Trump told Fox Business on Wednesday.

The disclaimers won’t be applied to any content posted to Twitter before Thursday.

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