Looks like the gloves are off. Citing its “rules about glorifying violence,” on Friday morning Twitter placed a content warning on an angry tweet by Donald Trump that appeared to threaten the use of violence against rioters in Minneapolis.
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) May 29, 2020
The riots on Thursday grew out of protests that erupted earlier in the week in response to the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who was killed by police officers on Memorial day. The officers involved were fired, but no charges have yet been filed.
Late Thursday night, Trump weighed in on the latest developments in Minneapolis on Twitter, saying in a pair of tweets: “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right…..These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Three hours later, Twitter responded with the content warning, which read: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” The message included a link to Twitter’s content policies. The warning now hides the tweet until users click a link that allows them to view it.
On 8:17am ET Friday morning, the official White House Twitter account reposted the same Trump tweet word-for-word that was hidden Thursday night. A little after an hour after being published, Twitter put the same warning on the White House tweet.
In response, the White House posted a screengrab of a tweet by Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei, the leader of Iran, which read “The struggle to free #Palestine” is #Jihad in the way of God.”
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, @Twitter has determined that it will allow terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform,” the White House account argued.
One of the bits in the offending Trump tweet — “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — is actually a quote. It comes from a December 1967 UPI article, and was said by the Miami chief of police, Walter Headley. The article is about the Miami police department using violent tactics to crack down on “Negro slum hoodlums.”
“We aren’t afraid of being accused of police brutality,” Headley said in the article, and credited his “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” policy with preventing “racial disturbances and looting” in response to the police crackdowns.
Twitter’s move marked an escalation in the very public argument between the social media giant and POTUS that started Tuesday, when it placed a fact check on two tweets in which Trump falsely claimed that mail-in voting leads to fraud. Trump raged about the fact check Tuesday night, complaining that Twitter had violated his free speech rights.
On Thursday, Trump went further, signing an executive order demanding that federal regulators investigate Twitter and other social media giants for possible “political bias,” and asking the FCC to reconsider section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants social media sites legal immunity for content posted by users.
In response to the order, Twitter said: “This EO is a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law. #Section230 protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally erode it threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”
Lawrence Yee contributed to this report.