Twitter said Tuesday that no one is exempt from the threat of being banned for violating its rules governing abusive behavior – not even President Donald Trump.
The social media giant has a sliding standard for heads of state and other controversy-attracting people because what they say is inherently newsworthy. But that’s ‘not a blanket exception for the president or anyone else,’ Twitter legal and policy chief Vijaya Gadde told Politico.
About 54.2 million people follow Trump on Twitter, inviting equally his opinions about public policy and the people and nations he loves to hate.
‘Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N.,’ the president tweeted nearly a year ago. ‘If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!’
That kind of direct threat could run afoul of Twitter’s Terms of Service, even if Trump has nuclear launch codes and the legal authority to use them.
In July he pointed his keyboard at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and pressed Enter: ‘NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.’
A month later he blasted former aide Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who penned a tell-all about her time working for him, as ‘a crazed, crying lowlife’ and a ‘dog.’
Separately, he branded her ‘wacky’ and ‘deranged.’
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey hinted to Politico that deciding whether to sanction the President of the United States for firing off abusive tweets would feature more art than science.
‘We have to balance it with the context that it’s in,’ he said. ‘So my role is to ask questions and make sure we’re being impartial, and we’re upholding consistently our terms of service, including public interest.’
Eight months ago Twitter explained on a corporate blog that blocking heads of state ‘would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.’
Dorsey has attracted unwanted attention from Republicans who say Twitter has shown a bias against them, but insists the platform is working on ways to ensure debate is healthier.
In prepared testimony released ahead of a House hearing Wednesday, he says Twitter ‘does not use political ideology to make any decisions, whether related to ranking content on our service or how we enforce our rules.’
The testimony comes as some Republicans say conservatives have been censored on social media and have questioned the platform’s algorithms. Dorsey will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon on that subject, following a morning hearing in the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference on social media.
Dorsey says in the House testimony that the company has continued to identify accounts that may be linked to a Russian internet agency that was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year.
The indictment detailed an elaborate plot by Russian intelligence officers to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election, charging several people associated with the Internet Research Agency with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Dorsey says in the testimony that Twitter has so far suspended 3,843 accounts the company believes are linked to the agency and has seen recent activity.
‘These accounts used false identities purporting to be Americans, and created personas focused on divisive social and political issues,’ Dorsey said.
To address concerns about bias, Dorsey offered an explanation of how Twitter uses ‘behavioral signals,’ such as the way accounts interact and behave on the service. Those signals can help weed out spam and abuse.
He said such behavioral analysis ‘does not consider in any way’ political views or ideology.
Dorsey said the San Francisco-based company is also ‘committed to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.’