Twitter’s got a new plan for when President Trump decides he wants to tweet something like, say, unverified videos from Jayda Fransen, leader of the far-right (and quite racist) Britain First Party, purporting to show things like “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death!” Instead of deleting those tweets as violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service, the company is considering labeling them.
Twitter is exploring how it can annotate offensive tweets that break its rules but remain in the public interest, said Vijaya Gadde, the company’s head of legal, policy, and trust and safety. It’s an effort to stem offensive content and hate speech and follows comments last year by chief executive Jack Dorsey, who said he is rethinking core parts of the platform to stem harassment and other abuses.
“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 said during an interview in San Francisco hosted by the Post. She also noted Twitter will still remove any content containing threats of violence. (Though as any woman who uses Twitter regularly will tell you, Twitter isn’t always so great at moderating and dealing with harmful content. A report from Amnesty International found the platform “violates women’s human rights.”) “There is absolutely a line of a type of content, an example being a direct, violent threat against an individual that we wouldn’t leave on the platform because of the danger it poses to that individual,” Gadde said. “But, there are other types of content that we believe are newsworthy or in the public interest that people may want to have a conversation around.”
Which, sure, that’s one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that allowing powerful people like Donald Trump to tweet whatever the hell they want and tacking a “this tweet is bad because [insert reason here]” label on it sets a precedent. It says that because they are powerful, these people are above behaving like every other person on the planet, above following the same rules every other person has to follow. That they can say whatever they like about whomever they like and there will be no repercussions. It’s a mentality that feels very much linked to the ideology that has only emboldened hatred and division in the United States in recent years.