Twitter says Trump cannot be banned due to world leader status

8 Jan 2018

Donald Trump in 2016. Image: Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

Twitter has explained its stance around the accounts of global political figures.

US president Donald Trump’s unorthodox use of Twitter’s platform was a talking point long before he was ever elected, but it seems that his political status will keep his account out of harm’s way, according to a new post from the company.

The post from Twitter comes as Trump provoked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a tweet, describing his own nuclear button as “much bigger” than Kim’s.

This tweet and many others have drawn harsh criticism of the US president and his use of the website, as well as Twitter’s own policy.

World leaders make an impact

Twitter said: “Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society.

“Blocking a world leader from Twitter, or removing their controversial tweets, would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.

“It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

Twitter also addressed a belief that many hold: that accounts such as Trump’s are allowed to remain on the platform as they draw attention and ad revenue to the company. “No one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions.

“We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind.”

A violation of policy?

It is debatable whether Trump did in fact violate user policy on Twitter, but it has raised some important questions.

Twitter prohibits tweets that threaten death, violence and physical harm, and, while Trump was not explicit in his references to violence or nuclear war, there are many people describing his tweets as a dog whistle for those who may have bigoted views or wish to act violently towards minorities.

It is also important to note that a single tweet from Trump could see a massive mob attack the target of the message with a barrage of threats that could be far more explicit than his original post.

An activist group based in San Francisco projected a message onto the exterior of Twitter’s headquarters, stating that CEO Jack Dorsey was “complicit”.

Twitter has made some efforts in other areas, particularly in cracking down on hate speech from far-right groups, but there are still some major questions remaining in terms of how threats from a major world leader against a country, however vague, are dealt with on the platform.

Donald Trump in 2016. Image: Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects