Twitter’s latest policy change regarding how they choose to trample on the speech of their users and avoid triggering anyone went into effect last week and now it’s being fully kicked into gear. They are also no longer making exceptions for world leaders, candidates for office or anyone else of the sort. Yep… they’re looking at you, President Trump.
Real Clear Politics has the rundown of the new changes, with a particular focus on how it may directly impact the @RealDonaldTrump account. They also highlight much of the inconsistency in Twitter’s policies in general.
Last week Twitter announced that it would no longer exempt most tweets by government officials from its rules regarding what it deems abusive behavior. Historically, tweets such as President Trump’s were allowed to remain up, even if the company determined that they violated its policies, due to their being in the “public interest” as an official communication by a head of state.
Now, the company will hide and deprioritize those tweets — and possibly even suspend accounts — for language it deems outside its view of acceptable speech.
Under the new policy to “protect the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” which went into effect June 27, tweets that, in Twitter’s eyes, represent threats of violence can result in a public official’s account (or that of a candidate for office) being suspended until he or she deletes the offending messages. Nonviolent tweets the company sees as violating its speech rules will be hidden behind an overlay that users must click through to view the tweet, as is the case with pornography and other “sensitive” content. The tweets will also be deemphasized by Twitter’s algorithms to massively reduce their discoverability.
Before getting to the specifics of how the rules are applied to President Trump (and presumably other world leaders) it’s worth noting the language that Twitter uses in discussing their capabilities. Remember how virulently they denied shadowbanning people? What does the phrase “deemphasized… to massively reduce their discoverability” sound like to you? That’s the definition of shadowbanning. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they are doing it still. Don’t expect it to change.
The hilarious part of the rules change is that they’re claiming they can apply the same rules to Presidential communications that they do to personal conversations or even trolling. For example, their policy against threats of violence could, in the opinion of Twitter’s spokesperson, be applied to a Trump tweet where he threatens military action against Iran if they don’t comply with international agreements or thwart sanctions. Also, anything they perceive as being racist, sexist, homophobic or what have you could result in an account suspension until the tweets are deleted With enough violations, the account could be scrapped.
Anyone care to place a wager on what the President’s first reaction will be if they suspend him for what they define as a naughty tweet? I’m guessing that “all options will be on the table.” But all it would take would be a press release saying that Donald Trump had created a Gab account and that app would shoot into the stratosphere overnight.
Here’s the thing, though. As sad as it may be to consider it, I really can’t criticize Twitter for any of this. We’re not talking about a Free Speech issue because Twitter isn’t the government. They’re a private company and they get to set the rules for the use of their product. Of course, those rules will pretty much only be enforced against conservatives because of their staggering liberal bias, but that’s how the free market tumbles. If we don’t like it we can vote with our feet.
Of course, so can the President. And if he goes to another platform he’ll be bringing millions of people with him.