Twitter Announces It Will Start Labeling Tweets From Politicians That Violate the Platform's Rules

Twitter announced Thursday that it will now penalize politicians who break its rules about community safety, even if that politician is President Donald Trump. 

The social media company previously gave some leeway to public figures, including government officials, when their tweets violated its terms of service, citing “public interest.” The company has often been criticized for not taking enough action against hate speech and threats of violence on the platform, ABC News reports. 

On Thursday, however, Twitter announced that it would flag tweets from government officials who break its community safety guidelines as “abusive” and de-prioritize those tweets in searches. However, the tweets will be allowed to stay up.

“In the past, we’ve allowed certain Tweets that violated our rules to remain on Twitter because they were in the public’s interest, but it wasn’t clear when and how we made those determinations,” the company wrote in its announcement. “To fix that, we’re introducing a new notice that will provide additional clarity in these situations, and sharing more on when and why we’ll use it.”

While the new policy won’t be retroactive, Twitter says that users will not be able to view these flagged tweets by political figures the social media company monitors, unless the user clicks to view the post on a screen displaying the message: “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.”

According to the company’s announcement, flagged tweets will now look like this:

Image via Twitter

The social media platform will apply the new policy to verified accounts of government officials and those running for office that have more than 100,000 followers, HuffPost reports.  

Twitter said it will develop a team to determine if the tweets are a matter of public interest based on key criteria, ABC News  reports. The team will consider if preserving the tweet will allow the public to hold the government or official accountable, as well as if there are other sources of information about the statement available for the public to stay informed. Twitter will also take into consideration whether the removal of the tweet would prevent people from understanding an issue of public concern and if the tweet provides a “unique context or perspective not available elsewhere that is necessary to a broader discussion.”

If the tweet violates the platform’s rules and the company finds based on their review that it is not within the public interest to keep the post up on the site, the company will require that the account owner remove the tweet. 

Twitter and other social media platforms, such as Facebook, have previously struggled to successfully implement and enforce rules on hate and abuse. 

During an interview with HuffPost in January, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey had a hard time giving an example of what it would take for the company to remove tweets from the platform, despite examples of misuse. When asked in “If Trump tweeted out asking each of his followers to murder one journalist, would you remove him?”, Dorsey responded, “That would be a violent threat. We’d definitely ... You know we’re in constant communication with all governments around the world. So we’d certainly talk about it.”