Twitter says President Donald Trump and the White House’s official Twitter account have violated its rule against glorifying violence and has affixed a warning label to tweets on both, marking the first time such action has been taken against the accounts.
The social media platform is using what it calls a “public interest notice” to flag the incendiary post about the protests and violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
This means the tweets will not be removed, but will be hidden behind a notice that says “this Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” Users can view it if they click past the notice.
The company’s move risked escalating tensions with the White House during an already tense week. Trump signed an executive order that purported to address “censorship” by Twitter and other social media companies, following Twitter’s earlier decision to affix fact-check type labels to two of his misleading posts about mail-in voting ballots.
Hours after Twitter flagged the tweet from Trump, the official White House account posted the same message. Twitter then took the same action with that message.
“As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited,” Twitter said in a tweet explaining its earlier decision to place a warning label on Trump’s tweet. “People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but will not be able to Like, Reply or Retweet it.”
A spokesperson for Twitter said the decision was made by teams within the company and CEO Jack Dorsey was informed of the plan before Trump’s tweet was labeled.
Trump continued his criticisms of Twitter on Friday after it labeled his post, tweeting that “it well be regulated.”
The president posted an identical message to Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram. CNN has reached out to Facebook for comment.
The post in question was about a third night of protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was filmed on video saying that he could not breathe as a white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd down.
As cable news networks carried images of fires and destructive protests in Minneapolis, the president tweeted at 12:53 a.m. ET: “these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
His phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” mirrors language used by a Miami police chief in the late 1960s in the wake of riots. Its use was immediately condemned by a wide array of individuals, from historians to members of rival political campaigns.
Some users reported the tweet to Twitter as a rule violation.
Less than two-and-a-half hours later, Twitter took action. “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the company said.
“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”
Twitter has said in the past that it makes exceptions to its rules when heads of state are involved, due to the inherently newsworthy nature of their posts.
Facebook came under scrutiny last year for saying it would not fact-check politicians’ posts.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and cofounder, defended the company’s position in a speech last year in Washington, but noted there may be some exceptions. “Even for politicians we don’t allow content that incites violence or risks imminent harm — and of course we don’t allow voter suppression,” he said.