In the past, Twitter has been extremely reluctant to take action against world leaders who skirt around the edges of its rules. Now the company has sought to explain its logic on policing the tweets of elected politicians, and what behaviours would actually cross the currently theoretical line.
“We don’t expect everyone to agree with our approach, but it’s important that we make the principles that underpin it clearer,” tweeted Brandon Borrman, from the Twitter Comms team.
In short, the blog post makes it pretty clear that the company is reluctant to get involved, which will come as no surprise to those initially shocked that the President of the United States could retweet Britain First propaganda.
“Presently, direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules,” the company wrote. This obviously covers the vast majority of politician’s potentially contentious tweets.
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“However, 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.”
Despite this, Twitter did point out that world leaders are “not above our policies entirely” – it’s just conveniently in areas that no leader has yet sought to push the boundaries. Promotion of terrorism, threats of violence against individuals (with some caveats), posting private information, sharing intimate videos or photos without permissions, child sexual exploitation and encouraging self-harm would see action taken, apparently.
It doesn’t say what said action would be, but given one of the main traffic drivers of the site is controversial comment from political leaders, you can’t imagine it being more than a slap on the wrist.
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“With critical elections and shifting political dynamics around the world, we recognise that we’re operating in an increasingly complex and polarised political culture,” the blog explains, conveniently ignoring its own part in said polarisation. “These are constantly evolving challenges and we’ll keep our policies and approach under advisement, particularly as we learn more about the relationship between Tweets from world leaders and the potential for offline harm.”