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Twitter considers flagging Trump’s inappropriate tweets

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A Twitter executive has suggested that world leaders currently immune from Twitter’s user guidelines could have their inappropriate tweets labelled as such in future.

Divisive political figures such as US President Donald Trump have proved a headache for social media companies. When world leaders use these mainstream platforms to harass, mock, threaten and abuse others – clearly breaking their terms of use – the companies are left deciding whether or not to punish these leaders.

Despite Trump repeatedly using Twitter inappropriately, according to the standard terms of service, his tweets and his account have not yet been suspended or deleted. His behaviour on the platform has been strongly criticised for the liberal use of personal insults to attack political rivals, the implicit incitement of violence, promotion of conspiracy theories and even threatening nuclear war with North Korea.

In June 2017, Democratic representative Keith Ellison described Trump as a “social media bully”, while fellow Democratic representative Mike Quigley proposed that the President’s tweets should be stored as presidential records.

Twitter has stated that Trump has some immunity because it is in the public interest for the newsworthy tweets – which provide a useful and often alarming insight into the mind of the world’s most powerful man – to remain visible. Last year, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stated that the company would be reconsidering how to clamp down on harassment, abuse and misinformation on the platform without infringing inappropriately on free expression.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, trust and safety, has said that the company is considering ways in which to handle inappropriate content posted by public figures.

Gadde suggested that Twitter could handle rule-breaking tweets from high-profile public figures by attaching notes to them. She said that this would “force people to acknowledge what this is and make the choice of whether to see it or not, versus it just being on the platform with full visibility.”

“One of the things we’re working really closely on with our product and engineering folks is: how can we label that? How can we put some context around it so people are aware that that content is actually a violation of our rules and it is serving a particular purpose in remaining on the platform?” Gadde told The Washington Post.

She added that even high-profile public figures do not have complete immunity on Twitter and that the platform would draw a line under explicit incitement of violence: “An example would be a direct violent threat against an individual that we wouldn’t leave on the platform because of the danger it poses to that individual.”

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it would be stamping out explicit material praising, supporting and representing white nationalism and separatism on its platforms, after the murder of 50 Muslims in a far-right terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, was live-streamed on Facebook. Before the attack, the suspect published a manifesto promoting the “white genocide” conspiracy theory.

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