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Twitter to flag abusive tweets by world leaders in move that could impact Trump

Key Points
  • Twitter says it will start labeling tweets from influential government officials who break its rules.
  • Twitter's new rule will target verified users with more than 100,000 followers who are government officials or running for public office.
  • The rule marks a shift in Twitter's response to how it handles tweets from world leaders.
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Twitter to add labels to politicians' posts that break its rules

Twitter said Thursday it will start labeling tweets from influential government officials who break its rules against bullying and abusive behavior.

Shares of Twitter dipped about 1% on the news and ended the trading day down 1.4%.

The new rule, announced in a blog post, responds to a common criticism of Twitter while being careful to avoid allegations of political bias. Over the last few years, users have questioned why Twitter does not take down tweets from President Donald Trump that appear to violate its content policies. While the blog post does not address Trump by name, it says the new rule will apply to verified government officials, representatives or candidates for a government position who have more than 100,000 followers.

The White House was not immediately available to comment on Twitter's new policy. On Wednesday, Trump lambasted Twitter and other Big Tech giants, claiming they are repressing his messaging and public commentary. "Twitter is just terrible, what they do. They don't let you get the word out," Trump told Fox Business Network.

The rule marks a shift in Twitter's response to how it handles tweets from world leaders. In January 2018, the company said it was concerned about blocking public access to information from world leaders, even if they seem controversial.

"Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate," Twitter wrote at the time. "It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions."

"We review Tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them, and enforce our rules accordingly," Twitter said in the 2018 post.

In the new policy released Thursday, Twitter said that for people who fit its new criteria, it will place a notice over tweets that violate its standards but it still deems to have some public interest value. Users will have to click through the notice in order to view the original tweet. The notice will include a link to more information and say, "The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain available," according to the blog post.

Twitter said it will also make it harder for this type of message to spread by taking steps to keep the tweet from becoming "algorithmically elevated."

Employees across Twitter's trust and safety, legal, public policy and regional teams will determine whether a tweet is considered of public interest, according to the blog post. The team will come to a decision by evaluating factors including the "immediacy and severity of potential harm from the rule violation," whether preserving the tweet will allow for public accountability and whether it provides unique context not otherwise available.

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