Twitter is changing its policy to solve a problem that has plagued the platform for years: what to do when a prominent figure, like President Donald Trump, violates the platform's rules but the message remains of public interest.
The social media company announced Thursday a new series of rules around accounts of politicians with large followings, including the introduction of a label that will be applied to tweets from public figures who violate company policies.
The announcement comes after years of criticism, particularly from Democrats, of Twitter’s permissiveness toward the president when he publishes tweets that appear to violate the company's rules.
Twitter will apply these new guidelines to verified users with more than 100,000 followers who hold government office or are running for office. If qualifying users violate the rules, the platform will require people to click or tap through a screen before they can see the tweet.
According to the company’s announcement, the screen will tell users that “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.”
The company said the labeled tweet that violates their policy won’t be algorithmically prioritized in an effort to "strike the right balance between enabling free expression, fostering accountability, and reducing the potential harm caused.” Members of Twitter’s trust and safety, public policy, legal and regional teams will determine which tweets fall under this new guideline.
“A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable,” Twitter said in the announcement.
Twitter guidelines currently ban harassment, bullying, threats of violence and violence, among other things, and the platform removes what it determines to be “hateful conduct.”
The new policy won’t be applied retroactively but could potentially apply to future tweets of the president.
Last year, Trump threatened Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Twitter in all caps, saying if Iran threatened the United States again, the country would “suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”
At the time, many were outraged over the tweet, and called for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to take action. Under the new guidelines, it is possible such a threat from the president would now be labeled.