- Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
- President Donald Trump lashed out at a group of four congresswomen in a series of statements published to Twitter on Sunday.
- The president used a racist trope in telling the members of Congress, all US citizens of color and three of them born in the US, to “go back” to their countries of origin.
- Twitter’s new policy of labeling, rather than removing, tweets by world leaders and politicians who break its rules wasn’t applied to Trump’s tweets, and Twitter representatives say his tweets don’t violate the platform’s rules.
- Twitter declined to explain how the tweets weren’t in violation of the company’s rules.
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On Sunday, President Donald Trump used a racist trope to attack four members of Congress.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump said on Twitter.
The tweet was aimed at Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. All four women of color are US citizens, and only Omar was born outside the US.
To many observers, the tweet seemed to violate Twitter’s rules.
“We prohibit targeting individuals with repeated slurs, tropes or other content that intends to dehumanize, degrade or reinforce negative or harmful stereotypes about a protected category,” Twitter’s terms of service says.
Twitter in fact has recently updated its policy for handling cases when the US president and other world leaders are found to break its rules. Rather than delete such tweets, Twitter now says it will place warnings on them.
The idea is simple: It’s in the public interest to preserve speech from public officials and politicians.
So rather than outright removing speech considered worth preserving, Twitter is putting it behind a notification warning users that its content may be offensive. It looks like this:
- Twitter blog post
But Twitter representatives told Business Insider that Trump’s tweets from this weekend – despite using an overt racist trope – didn’t violate its rules. The company declined repeated requests for more detail.
The rules governing Twitter’s use of the warning label are somewhat different from the company’s general terms of service.
Twitter published a blog post outlining the new system in late June, which included the following criteria for deciding which tweets from public officials would get a warning label:
- The immediacy and severity of potential harm from the rule violation, with an emphasis on ensuring physical safety;
- Whether preserving a Tweet will allow others to hold the government official, candidate for public office, or appointee accountable for their statements;
- Whether there are other sources of information about this statement available for the public to stay informed;
- If removal would inadvertently hide context or prevent people from understanding an issue of public concern; and
- If the Tweet provides a unique context or perspective not available elsewhere that is necessary to a broader discussion.”
Trump’s statement has been condemned by Democrats, some Republicans, and world leaders. He asserted on Tuesday that he “doesn’t have a racist bone” in his body and that he’s not worried about backlash to the statement because “many people agree” with him.