Twitter finally has an answer for critics who claim that the social network gives President Donald Trump a pass on his inflammatory tweets.
A company spokesman said Monday that it takes into account “newsworthiness” and potential public interest when deciding whether or not a particular tweet violates the company’s rules for appropriate conduct.
The statement came in response to calls for Twitter to take action against the president’s account for a tweet threatening North Korea this weekend. The North Korean government claimed the tweet was a “clear declaration of war,” and a case could easily be made that it broke Twitter’s rules prohibiting harassment and content that incites violence.
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
Twitter’s rules about what does and does not constitute an inappropriate tweet are opaque, subjective, and often unevenly applied. CEO Jack Dorsey seemed to ackowledge as much in a tweet Monday in which he promised the company would “do better” with transparency in these types of situations.
Monday’s statements mark the first time the company has mentioned “newsworthiness” and “public interest” as criteria in enforcing its rules. By doing so, Twitter’s admitting it exercises at least some degree of editorial judgment and acts more like a media company, a label most social platforms have long tried to avoid.
“This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it,” Twitter cofounder Biz Stone wrote in a blog post. “We need to do better on this, and will.”
This is nowhere near the first time Twitter has faced pressure to rein in Trump’s often belligerent use. Twitter has mostly stayed mum on the issue, deferring to a company policy not to comment on the individual actions of private accounts.
The statements may mark a newfound willingness to discuss the inner workings behind these decisions—at least when it comes to the world’s top public figures.