Twitter said that they have placed a public interest notice on the President’s tweet and that people can retweet with comment but will not be able to like, reply or retweet it.

Donald Trump
news Social media Friday, May 29, 2020 - 13:35

In an unprecedented development, Twitter censored a tweet by the US President Donald Trump for glorifying violence. In a statement, Twitter said that they have placed a public interest notice on the President’s tweet and that people will be able to retweet with comment but will not be able to like, reply or retweet it.

Tweeting about the protests and unrest in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd, Donald Trump had tweeted that if the “looting starts, the shooting begins.” His tweet came after anger over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed unarmed black man in police custody, spread beyond Minneapolis on Thursday, with looting and fires set along a major St. Paul street and protesters returning to a neighbourhood already ravaged by violent protest.

It was the third consecutive night of violent protests following Floyd's death on Monday. In footage recorded by a bystander, Floyd can be seen pleading that he can't breathe as Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneels on his neck. As minutes pass, Floyd slowly stops talking and moving.

Twitter said that the tweet violated their 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.

“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. As is standard with this notice, engagements with the Tweet will be limited,” the statement said.

The action by Twitter came shortly after US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at stripping social media giants like Twitter and Facebook of legal immunity for the content posted by third-party users.

The order comes a day after Trump accused Twitter of election interference, after it added fact-check links to two of his tweets.

"Currently, social media giants, like Twitter, receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they're a neutral platform - which they're an editor with a viewpoint," Trump told reporters after he signed an executive order on Thursday.

The executive order calls for new regulations, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield.

"That's a big deal. They have a shield; they can do what they want. They have a shield. They're not going to have that shield," Trump asserted.

Trump said that the executive order further instructs the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce.

This authority resides in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, he said.

Trump also said he was directing the Attorney General to work cooperatively with the States.

"He's going to be working very much and very closely in cooperation with the states to enforce their own laws against such deceptive business practices. The states have brought in powerful authority to regulate in this arena, and they'll be doing it also and we encourage them to do it - if they see exactly as we've been seeing," he noted.

The President said that a handful of powerful social media monopolies controlled a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States.

"We know what they are; we don't have to name them," he said.

These social media outlets have had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences, he said.

"There's no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction. And that includes individual people controlling vast amounts of territory," he said.

Asserting that his administration can't allow that to happen, especially when they go about doing what they are doing, because they are doing things incorrectly.

"They have points of view. And if we go by that, it's actually amazing that there was a success in 2016. But we can't let this continue to happen. It's very, very unfair," he said.

The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadow, ban are editorial decisions, pure and simple. They are editorial decisions. In those moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform, and they become an editor with a viewpoint, he asserted.

"I think we can say that about others also, whether you're looking at Google, whether you're looking at Facebook and perhaps others," Trump said.

"One egregious example is when they try to silence views that they disagree with by selectively applying a "fact check" - a fact check -- F-A-C-T. Fact check. What they choose to fact check and what they choose to ignore or even promote is nothing more than a political activism group or political activism. It is inappropriate," he said.

"This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself. Imagine if your phone company silenced or edited your conversation. Social media companies have vastly more power and more reach than any phone company in the United States. More reach, actually, than your newspapers, by far. More reach than a lot of your traditional forms of communication," Trump said.

(With PTI inputs)


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