Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Democrats have been tearing into Facebook and Twitter’s content and ads policies for days, focusing on rules that leave room for inaccurate or abusive language. But on Tuesday, Twitter put out a blog post in an attempt to clarify that world leaders, like President Donald Trump, are not above its rules — at least not “entirely.”
In Tuesday’s blog post, Twitter said that “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.”
If a tweet does break the platform rules, Twitter can remove it. If it thinks it’s of public interest, the company can block it out with a gray box that users have to click through in order to see the content.
We haven’t used this notice yet, but when we do, you will not be able to like, reply, share, or Retweet the Tweet in question. You will still be able to express your opinion with Retweet with Comment.— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 15, 2019
Last June, Twitter announced that it would begin rolling out a “notice” over tweets from world leaders and politicians who broke its content policies but Twitter still deemed “in the public interest.” Notably, Twitter hasn’t used that feature even once, according to a tweet from one of the platform’s accounts on Tuesday.
What wasn’t clear over the summer was how this notice would affect how other users could engage with the content. Twitter said on Tuesday that if a tweet is blocked out, “you will not be able to like, reply, share, or Retweet.” But you’ll be able to quote-tweet it in order to “express your opinion” or call out the politician in question.
However, if a public figure breaks other rules, like promoting terrorism, making violent threats, or posting someone’s private information, Twitter will take an “enforcement action” like a suspension or a ban. Earlier this month, Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani was briefly kicked off the platform for posting a phone number belonging to a Ukrainian official.
Still, it’s remarkable that not a single public figure or politician has violated the rules in a way that was in the “public interest” in the three months that the notice policy has been in effect. More Trump Twitter content has been removed by copyright claims than policy violations throughout the span of his presidency.
Tuesday’s blog post follows calls from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign sent last week demanding that Facebook and Twitter refuse to run political ads that include false or misleading statements. Biden’s letters were in response to an ad placed on social media by President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign making baseless claims regarding Biden, his son Hunter, and the Ukraine scandal that has dominated the news cycle for the past few weeks.
In a statement to The Verge last week, a Twitter spokesperson said that the ad in question did not violate its content policies and that it would be responding to the Biden campaign in the future.