Twitter is developing a new mechanism to label messages that violate its rules but cannot be deleted because they are in the “public interest.” The feature is expected to affect politicians, particularly US President Donald Trump.
The social media giant has been working on a way to hint to people that some tweets from politicians and notable public figures do not really sit well with the network’s administrators, and have not been deleted solely for the sake of free public discussion. Twitter has been pushed to take this step following accusations of giving a free reign to some personalities due to the “newsworthiness” of their messages. And Trump, who often uses the platform for fiery rants, apparently tops the list of social media troublemakers.
“One of the things we’re working really closely on with our product and engineering folks is, ‘How can we label that?’” Vijaya Gadde, the company’s head of legal, policy, and trust and safety department said at the Technology 202 Live, a Washington Post live forum in San Francisco.
“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?”
When asked if Twitter allows the US president to virtually say whatever he wants, Gadde admitted that the current situation apparently sends a wrong message.
“When we leave that content on the platform there’s no context around that and it just lives on Twitter and people can see it and they just assume that is the type of content or behavior that’s allowed by our rules.”
The company executive also rushed to assure everyone that there are some red lines that even public figures like Trump would not be allowed to cross. “An example would be 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.
As for the new mechanism that would see some particularly fiery tirade of Trump and other politicians and public figures “put into context,” the company executive did not provide any details on how it would work or look like. She said, though, that Twitter could hide some “dehumanizing” tweets behind a warning label that would require a person to click on it to see the message itself.
The news comes at a time when social media platforms are increasingly seeking to ban everything they believe to be out of line – often following a public outcry. Most recently, Facebook has outlawed all content relating to “white nationalism” and “white separatism” from being posted on its site. The move came after the social media giant was accused of being too slow to promptly remove the video filmed by the Christchurch mosque gunman in New Zealand, who killed 50 people while livestreaming the rampage.
Meanwhile, right-wing users have been accusing social media sites of a full-blown censorship campaign. On March 19, Republican congressman Devin Nunes said he would file a $250 million lawsuit against Twitter over its alleged “explicit censorship” of conservatives. On the same day, Trump said he would “look into” Facebook temporarily gagging his social media chief.
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