It must suck to be a content moderator at Twitter. On one hand, it has an obligation to ensure the platform isn’t used to make threats or spread racism, misogyny, sexism and hate speech. On the other, some very high profile users straddle that line and the company is loathe to dump them. In response, Twitter will now label tweets is says violate its terms and conditions but should remain online because they are in the public interest. So, the next time the president of a large, nuclear-equipped country threatens mass murder, it will be tagged.
Twitter and other social media platforms used by politicians are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they have rules that result in mere mortals like you and me being chastised or banned.
For example, a few weeks ago, I jokingly said capital punishment should be reintroduced in response to some silly comment made by a friend. But someone reported that tweet and it was removed by Twitter along with a rap on the knuckles for being naughty.
On the other hand, threatening an entire country seems OK.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Twitter’s solution will certainly come under fire but it’s an elegant way to deal with the challenge in my view. Retaining the social media messages of politicians is an important part of the public record. And banning someone could be seen as pandering to one side of politics or another. But simply labelling the tweet as being in violation of the platform’s rules lets it stay on the record and informs people that it is contrary to the rules.
Although I’m sure the first President of the USA, I mean random politician, to have a tweet tagged with the warning will scream “Bias!” at the top of their lungs.
Twitter said in a blog post that the new warning will only apply to verified users with more than 100,000 followers who are running for or in public office. So, that does away with claiming you’re an independent with a new Twitter account and using it to spread misinformation or hate speech.
The tweets will be moderated by a “cross-functional team including Trust and Safety, Legal, Public Policy and regional teams”.