President Donald Trump’s spree of tweets attacking black political figures over the weekend do not violate Twitter’s rules prohibiting dehumanizing language, the company said.
Trump wrote that Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-MD) congressional district, a majority-black area that includes part of Baltimore, was a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and that “no human being” would want to live there. He further retweeted a British conservative commentator who called Baltimore “a proper shithole.”
A day later, the president said there was “nothing racist” about his tweets, turning his criticism toward longtime Democratic political operative Rev. Al Sharpton, who he called a conman.
In early July, Twitter announced new rules disallowing tweets that deny the humanity of religious groups after nearly a year of deliberation and public comment. The company considered banning all dehumanizing speech, including attacks on geographic origin, reportedly using the president’s “shithole countries” remark as an example, but narrowed the policy to encompass religion and groups explicitly protected by civil rights laws.
Cummings, chair of the House Oversight Committee, has been investigating Trump and recently decried detention conditions at the Southern U.S. border. Last week the president made similar attacks against four newly minted Representatives, all women of color, telling them to go back to their countries. Three of four were born in the U.S. The comments also did not run afoul of Twitter’s rules.
Whether Trump’s racist tweets violate Twitter’s rules has long been a subject of debate, and Twitter has often fallen back on the defense that, as the U.S. president, his remarks are newsworthy and should remain visible.
Under a policy announced in late June, however, Twitter said it will label tweets by prominent figures that break the social network’s abusive behavior rules when it's “in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.” Twitter opted not to give Trump’s latest set of tweets that label.