Twitter Places Warning on Trump Minneapolis Tweet, Saying It Glorified Violence


Twitter escalated its confrontation with President Trump on Friday, adding warning labels to two tweets by Mr. Trump and the official White House Twitter account that implied that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot.

The decision to add the new warning labels was approved by Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, after a late-night debate among company officials, said a person with knowledge of the deliberations. Twitter further tightened restrictions on the messages from Mr. Trump and the White House by blocking users from liking or replying to them, though people could still retweet the messages if they added a comment of their own.

But Twitter did not go as far as taking the posts down, saying it was in the public’s interest that the messages remain accessible.

The back-and-forth between Mr. Trump and Twitter on Friday punctuated a week of conflict between the two.

Twitter and Mr. Trump are now in a standoff. The company has said it will continue putting warning labels and restrictions on tweets that incite violence or spread false information about elections and the coronavirus. And Mr. Trump, who once tweeted up to 108 times a day this month, shows no signs of stopping his usage of the service, lashing out on Friday on Twitter about Twitter itself.

He posted several other tweets citing similar views by his favorite Fox News hosts. And as if daring Twitter, he posted another message about looting leading to shooting on Friday afternoon.

First Amendment scholars said Friday that Mr. Trump and his allies had it backward and that he was the one trying to stifle speech that clashed with his own views.

“Fundamentally this dispute is about whether Twitter has the right to disagree with, criticize, and respond to the president,” said Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “Obviously, it does. It is remarkable and truly chilling that the president and his advisers seem to believe otherwise.”

Revoking Section 230 protections would expose Twitter and other online platforms to expansive potential legal vulnerability that could undermine the fundamentals of their businesses. But it would also remove the very legal standard that has allowed Mr. Trump to use Twitter so effectively to communicate with his more than 80 million followers — no matter how incendiary, false and even defamatory his messages may be.

Protests have raged in Minneapolis this week over the death on Monday of George Floyd, a black man who had been pinned down by a white police officer who pressed his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck.

Frederike Kaltheuner, a tech policy fellow at the Mozilla Foundation, said Twitter’s confrontation with Mr. Trump raised questions about how the platform would treat other world leaders. In March, the company deleted posts by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela that contained unproven information about Covid-19 treatments.

“I doubt that Twitter has the resources to consistently apply rules to all heads of states that use their platform in all sorts of languages,” Ms. Kaltheuner said. “From all we know about the many inconsistent ways in which other policies are being enforced, my guess is that places that rarely make U.S. news will likely be overlooked.”

In Mr. Trump’s tweets about Minneapolis on Friday, he also criticized the response by Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat. Mr. Trump said Mr. Frey must “get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

Mr. Frey did not know about Mr. Trump’s tweets until a reporter read them aloud during a news conference early on Friday. The mayor shook his head and slammed a podium for emphasis.

“Weakness is refusing to take responsibility for your own actions,” he said. “Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis.”

He added, “Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis.”

Peter Baker, Russell Goldman and Adam Satariano contributed reporting.


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