In a blog post published yesterday, 27.06.19, Twitter has stated that it will start labelling Tweets from world leaders and government officials that are breaking Twitter rules against bullying and abusive behaviour. Twitter has come under fire from critics for not enforcing its rules evenly by allowing politicians to break its rules on abuse, harassment and incitement. Twitter has previously defended its position by claiming that these Tweets were ‘newsworthy’.
The labelling will take the form of a notice placed over the Tweet that states:
‘The Twitter Rules about abusive behaviour apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.’
People wishing to see the Tweet would then have to click through to see it. As well as covering the Tweet with this label, the Tweet will not show up in search results, not will it be promoted by the platform’s algorithms.
Prompted by anyone we know?
Twitter has stated that this move is not linked to any one particular politician or their activity on Twitter, but it’s hard not to see this, at least in part, as a response to Donald Trump’s use of the platform. Trump has rattled nerves with provocative Tweets directed largely at the leaders of Iran and North Korea, referring to Kim Jong Un as “little Rocket Man.” He also posted a roughly edited video of himself in a WWE ring punching a reporter labelled as CNN. All of this has drawn heavy criticism for Twitter and repeated calls to suspend or pull Trump’s account. Twitter has consistently refused to do so stating that his Tweets were newsworthy.
The new policy will only apply to people who:
- Are or represent a government official, are running for government or are being considered for a position
- Have more than 100,000 followers
- Have a verified Twitter account
Twitter has acknowledged that it has allowed rule-breaking in the past and that these steps were intended to counter these double standards.
“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 said on Thursday.
“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.”
It’s a move that has been cautiously welcomed by some, doesn’t go far enough for others and will probably irritate Trump, who has already accused Twitter of removing followers and making it hard for people to follow him.
This move is another from social media platforms, like the one made by Instagram recently to hide ‘likes’, to clean up their acts. While it’s good that we can see that Twitter is acknowledging the bad behaviour by some politicians, and that they are breaking Twitter rules, it still isn’t doing enough to address the problems that have plagued the platform for years around regulating active political disinformation, aggression, bullying and harassment. Expansion of notification filtering and the ability to mute keywords or phrases from notifications were brought in in 2017 along with Twitter time-outs and greater transparency around their reporting procedures, but there are still regular complaints regarding toxic behaviour on the platform that Twitter has yet to address.