Twitter will add a disclaimer to tweets from Donald Trump and other politicians that break the social media platforms rules, under a new policy change that appears to be aimed at the president’s most inflammatory tweets.
The change, which will mean that fewer Twitter users see Trump tweets that break the rules, is likely to set off new complaints from the president alleging that Twitter is biased against him.
While the new policy announced on Thursday doesn’t mention Trump, it applies specifically to politicians or government officials who are verified on Twitter and have more than 100,000 followers — a category that includes Trump.
Instead of deleting tweets from Trump and other world leaders when they break the rules, Twitter will now add a disclaimer saying that the tweet qualified as “abusive behavior” but will remain up in the public interest. Users will have to click through the notice before they can view the tweet.
“The Twitter rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet,” the disclaimer posted to the tweets will read. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. However, one senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast on Thursday afternoon that they or someone else will print out an article on the new policy and show it to the president.
This official predicted that Trump would not be happy, and that it would almost certainly trigger more public raging on the topic from the president. “He is not going to like this,” the official bluntly noted. (President Trump is currently overseas for a series of G20 meetings.)
Twitter’s algorithm also won’t highlight the tweets that break the rules, meaning fewer Twitter users will see them. Tweets with the label will also be hidden from live event pages and Twitter’s algorithmically curated “Top Tweets” version of the timeline.
Critics have pointed out that Trump regularly breaks Twitter’s rules. In April, Trump tweeted video juxtaposing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) with imagery from 9/11, prompting a wave of death threats against the lawmaker. In January, Trump used Twitter to intimidate his former attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump has also threatened military action against Iran and North Korea on the platform — a violation of Twitter’s rules against violent threats.
In a blog post announcing the policy, Twitter said it was trying to balance adherence to the site’s rules with the public’s interest in what world leaders are tweeting. Even under the new policy, though, not every tweet that violates the rules could stay up — Twitter says “direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual” could be ruled as outside of the public interest and taken down.
Despite all of Trump’s routine accusations against the social media company as a censoring, anti-Trump behemoth, Twitter regularly keeps in touch with administration officials, including with Trump’s White House social media guru Dan Scavino, in an effort to maintain a tenuous diplomacy, according to several knowledgeable sources.
Trump has frequently accused Twitter of being biased against him and other Republicans. In April, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with Trump in the White House after Trump accused Twitter of deleting his followers. Instead, Dorsey explained, Trump had lost followers during a routine purge of fake Twitter accounts.
That apparently didn’t convince Trump, who has kept up his accusations that Twitter is keeping his follower count down. On Wednesday, Trump called Fox Business Network to complain that it’s “very hard for people to join me on Twitter.”
Twitter’s latest move will likely inflame President Trump’s, as well as the GOP’s, ongoing messaging skirmishes and culture wars with tech giants.
“It would behoove Republican politicians to understand the rampant censorship from big tech companies has become a top tier issue among Republican voters, right next to immigration, the Second Amendment, and taxes,” said Andrew Surabian, a GOP strategist and political adviser to Donald Trump Jr., both of whom made widely circulated allegations that Twitter was “shadow banning” them. (This accusation was subsequently picked up by President Trump himself last year.)
“Just in the last week, we have Twitter saying they’re going to hide the president’s tweets, we have Reddit suspending the entire ‘The_Donald’ subreddit because of comments from random users, and we have Google executives caught on tape—which was later removed from YouTube—that their goal is to stop President Trump in 2020,” Surabian continued. “That’s all in the last week!”