Twitter to tag, but not remove, world leaders' tweets that break its rules

Twitter to tag, but not remove, world leaders' tweets that break its rules
© Greg Nash

Twitter on Thursday announced it will soon start tagging, but not removing, tweets from world leaders that violate the platform's rules.

In a blog post, the company said it will place disclaimers on tweets from top government officials or high-profile candidates when they violate any of Twitter's rules, but will not remove the posts when they are in the "public interest."


The change has the potential to affect President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE, who meets the three standards for this treatment — a government official with more than 100,000 followers who is verified on Twitter — and has faced widespread criticism over his often inflammatory tweets.

"There are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules," Twitter wrote in a blog post. "On the rare occasions when this happens, we'll place a notice – a screen you have to click or tap through before you see the Tweet – to provide additional context and clarity."

The message on the post would read, "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 will also limit distribution of the flagged tweets, barring the tweet from going out as a "recommended tweet" push notification or appearing in the "top tweets" timeline.

But there are limits on the rules that world leaders can violate.

"Direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual ... are unlikely to be considered in the public interest," Twitter wrote in the post.

Twitter has long held that most posts from public figures should remain up because they are "newsworthy," even when they violate Twitter guidelines. But a Twitter executive earlier this year signaled a change was coming, under pressure to address why some Trump tweets have been allowed to remain up even when they violate Twitter policies against harassment and, according to some critics, incitement to violence.

Trump has used his Twitter account to insult and berate his foes, including news organizations, Democrats, actors and more. But any future attempt by Twitter to limit access to his tweets would likely be met with a storm of criticism from Republicans and the president, who have long held that the top tech companies systematically discriminate against them. The companies, including Twitter as recently as this week, have continually pushed back against those allegations, saying there is little evidence to substantiate them. 

Twitter in the blog post said the notice won't be applied retroactively to any tweets sent before Thursday.

"Given the conditions outlined above, it’s unlikely you'll encounter it often," Twitter wrote, saying it cannot predict the first time it will be used.