“Are you sure you want to see this?”
That’s basically the question Twitter will ask people who want to view a tweet by world leaders (and they obviously mean President Trump) who violate their rules. It might be an abusive comment, threats of violence, or some other egregious remark.
In the past, users wondered quite why these “special” users were allowed to post anything they want (it seems) while most users would find their account was suspended or the remarks deleted. It sounds at the time like special treatment.
However, the platform decided long ago to allow troll-like behavior from politicians, mostly as a form of free speech. Announced in June, the social media powerhouse admitted it is a gray area. How much do you allow politicians to express their views?
Their new comment on the matter reads like this:
“When it comes to the actions of world leaders on Twitter, we recognize that this is largely new ground and unprecedented. We understand the desire for our decisions to be ‘yes/no’ binaries, but it’s not that simple. The actions we take and policies we develop will set precedent around online speech and we owe it to the people we serve to be deliberate and considered in what we do.”
The rules announced in June for showing the warning — which is intended to provide “context and clarity” — are that the verified user has to be a government official and have more than 100,000 followers.
In the memo from today, Twitter explained that the warning would probably appear even if there is a clear violation. Users won’t be able to retweet or like the post.
As the company stated in the blog:
“If a Tweet from a world leader does violate the Twitter Rules but there is a clear public interest value to keeping the Tweet on the service, we may place it behind a notice that provides context about the violation and allows people to click through should they wish to see the content.”
The question to ask is whether it’s really enough.
The public has a right to know about the egregious tweets, yet social media companies are still in a bind when it comes to the public square.
Obviously, any threats of violence from one normal user to another are not allowed and are not related to free speech.
The issue will become even more thorny this election season as we start seeing more and more political jabs (which are allowed) and possibly far worse. For now, it is a stop-gap measure and one that will likely not be resolved soon.