Twitter has placed a warning label over a tweet President Trump posted in response to Minneapolis riots following the death of George Floyd. In the tweet, which was cited as “glorifying violence,” Trump seemed to call for violence against protestors if looting continued.
The decision is the latest riposte against Trump by the social media platform, which earlier this week placed a fact-checking label on a tweet about mail-in ballots. Trump responded by signing an executive order calling for a review of legal protections for speech on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Twitter’s latest measure goes one step further, as it hides the original tweet under a warning label. Users can click the label to see the tweet, but they cannot like it or retweet it.
“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance,” read a tweet from Twitter’s public relations team.
The killing of George Floyd, an African-American man, by Minneapolis police has sparked widespread protests in the city. Protests escalated in places to include people storming stores and seizing items. Some businesses have also been burned, and protestors took control of a police precinct and set it on fire.
While city leaders have called for calm and a return to peaceful protest, Trump took a more incendiary tone by threatening to send in the National Guard. Then, he called the protestors “thugs” and wrote: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
Many people noted that the phrase seemed to reference a former Miami police chief who used strong-arm tactics against minority protestors in the 60s. That proved to be enough for Twitter to take action.
This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today. https://t.co/sl4wupRfNH
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) May 29, 2020
In that violence policy, Twitter says users “can’t glorify, celebrate, praise or condone violent crimes, violent events where people were targeted because of their membership in a protected group, or the perpetrators of such acts.”
Beyond the actual speech, Twitter makes a distinction in this case where the language holds the potential to cause others to engage in violent action: “We have a policy against content that glorifies acts of violence in a way that may inspire others to replicate those violent acts and cause real offline harm.”
In this case, Twitter believed that Trump’s “shooting starts” phrase crossed that line. However, Twitter also highlighted its public-interest exceptions policy:
“At present, we limit exceptions to one critical type of public-interest content—Tweets from elected and government officials—given the significant public interest in knowing and being able to discuss their actions and statements. As a result, in rare instances, we may choose to leave up a Tweet from an elected or government official that would otherwise be taken down.
Twitter appeared to have taken the action around 4 a.m. on the East Coast. So Trump has probably not seen the label yet. However, this action seems likely to escalate the president’s grievances with social media platforms.