Twitter's Public Policy Department has made a judgement call about a tweet from President Trump that has been called a "declaration of war" by North Korea, marking perhaps the first time that a social media company has made such a call with potentially wide ranging casualty implications involving two nuclear powers.
As I discussed here yesterday, it's not that much of a stretch to see Trump's tweeted threat of Saturday, saying of "Rocket Man" Kim Jong Un and North Korea "they won't be around much longer!" as a violation of Twitter's policy against threats and harassment especially when they are one-sided (you don't see Kim Jong Un on Twitter!).
But, no. Twitter Public Policy issued a statement late Monday echoed on Medium by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone suggesting he may have helped craft it responding to the public outcry, saying that internally there have always been exceptions made for tweets that are newsworthy
THREAD: Some of you have been asking why we haven't taken down the Tweet mentioned here: https://t.co/CecwG0qHmq 1/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules 2/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
Among the considerations is "newsworthiness" and whether a Tweet is of public interest 3/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
This has long been internal policy and we'll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will 4/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
Twitter is committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what's happening in the world 5/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
We’ll continue to be guided by these fundamental principles 6/6— Twitter PublicPolicy (@Policy) September 25, 2017
There has been public outcry, obviously mostly concentrated on the left, about whether Trump's Twitter account should be suspended or banned, given that he so often uses it for purposes that could be construed as bullying by any other user. As the Verge notes, the above statement confirms what we've suspected all along: "Twitter’s answer... basically implies that Trump’s account will never be censored. Anything the President tweets is newsworthy, which means that none of his tweets can be pulled from the platform."
And this presents a conundrum for Twitter going forward, now that they've declared this policy. Per the Verge, "It’ll have to start deciding who else’s tweets qualify as newsworthy. It’ll also have to take this into consideration when a private individual’s tweet blows up is that tweet suddenly newsworthy too?"
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey referred to his feelings about Trump's Twitter use last December as "complicated."
And yes, it is going to become a chicken-or-egg situation determining what is a "threat of violence" that is against policy, and what is a "newsworthy" threat of violence because the threat is coming from our President and may lead to actual, world-changing violence.