Twitter explains why it is hiding Trump’s tweet about Minneapolis protests

29 May 2020

Image: sharafmaksumov/Depositphotos

As tensions rise between Donald Trump and Twitter, the social media site has hidden one of his tweets for ‘glorifying violence’.

Twitter users viewing the profile of US president Donald Trump will notice that they can’t automatically view one of his tweets. Instead, there is a warning that the tweet violated the platform’s rules about “glorifying violence”.

However, the tweet can still be seen once the user has consented and clicked ‘view’ on the label. The decision was taken by Twitter after Trump posted about ongoing Minneapolis protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer.

Twitter said it placed a “public interest notice” on the post because it violates platform policies about the glorification of violence and could inspire others to “commit violent acts”.

It added that it did not remove the tweet entirely because “it is important that the public still be able to see the tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance”.

Screenshot of Donald Trump's tweet hidden by Twitter.


Historic context

In his tweet, Trump warned protesters that he would be willing to send the US military in to quell protests if there was “any difficulty”. He went on to state that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. This, it is believed, is referencing comments made in 1967 by former Miami police chief Walter Headley.

At the time, Headley promised to use violence against protesters after serious unrest over the stop-and-frisk police tactic.

The notice on Trump’s tweet comes after days of tension between Twitter and the US president. On Tuesday (26 May), Twitter took its first actions against Trump’s account – which has more than 80m followers – by including a warning label on two of his tweets.

The tweets referencing California’s election planning and false claims surrounding voting by mail were later affixed with warning labels by Twitter and a link to further information that described Trump’s claims as “unsubstantiated”.

Screenshot of a Donald Trump tweet discussing mail-in ballots.


Trump signs executive order

No action was taken against Trump’s tweets in the past after a policy was put in place to not interfere with tweets from world leaders.

However, Twitter updated its policies this month to say that the platform could not be used “for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”. This update saw the president’s tweets on Tuesday flagged for violating Twitter’s “civic integrity policy”.

Trump responded to this new policy claiming the platform is “stifling free speech”. Meanwhile, his campaign manager Brad Parscale said such efforts are an attempt by Silicon Valley to “obstruct and interfere with president Trump getting his message through to voters”.

Yesterday (28 May), Trump signed an executive order as part of an effort to “remove or change” a provision of US law that somewhat protects social media companies from liability for consent posted to their platforms.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet,” Trump wrote. “This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.”

Twitter called the decision a “reactionary and politicised approach to a landmark law” that would “threaten the future of online speech”.

Donald Trump’s Twitter profile. Image: sharafmaksumov/Depositphotos

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic