Twitter Sanctions Death Threats, But Only By Famous People
This weekend, Donald Trump used Twitter to threaten to end the lives of everyone living in North Korea.
So, Trump made a death threat all the people in North Korea. That’s definitely against the rules Twitter created for behavior it will tolerate from its users.
Twitter’s rules for its users state clearly, “You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.” What’s more, Twitter says, “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” Threatening to kill everyone in North Korea is definitely promoting violence against and threatening people on the basis of their national origin. There’s nothing more discriminatory than threatening to “totally destroy” everyone and everything in a foreign country.
But, what action has Twitter taken?
Twitter has done nothing.
Tonight, Twitter justified its refusal to hold Donald Trump’s Twitter identity accountable to the rules it sets for users. Twitter made the following announcement:
“THREAD: Some of you have been asking why we haven’t taken down the Tweet mentioned here: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/25/553475174/declaration-of-war-means-north-korea-can-shoot-down-u-s-bombers-minister-says
We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.
Among the considerations is “newsworthiness” and whether a Tweet is of public interest.
This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will.
Twitter is committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world.
We’ll continue to be guided by these fundamental principles.”
Fundamental principles? Really?
It’s plainly false that Twitter holds all accounts to the same rules. Twitter has decided that if a user has “newsworthiness” – in other words, that the user is famous – that user can break the rules that everyone else on Twitter has to obey.
If you’re just an average person and you make death threats on Twitter, then your Twitter will shut your account down.
If you’re famous, however, and you drive lots of Twitter traffic when you do outrageous things, then Twitter will do nothing. If you’re a celebrity, Twitter will allow you to make all the death threats you want.
Essentially, Twitter is following the Access Hollywood standard.
Donald Trump was recorded by Access Hollywood cameras saying that he could go up to women and “grab them by the pussy” and get away with it because he’s a celebrity. Twitter is saying that he was right.
Twitter is saying that there are two standards: One for the little people, and another for people like Donald Trump.
It’s clear what the real policy of Twitter is: Allow users to make death threats when those threats get large numbers of people to visit Twitter, when there’s advertising revenue to be made. Twitter financially profits from Donald Trump’s death threats, so they’ll let him go on doing whatever he wants.
Are we going to let Twitter get away with those rules?