Twitter Places Warning on Congressman’s Tweet for Glorifying Violence

OAKLAND, Calif. — Days after restricting one of President Trump’s posts from view for glorifying violence, Twitter went at it again.

On Monday, the social media service used the same label to hide a message by Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida — which likened those who were protesting police violence to terrorists and called for them to be hunted down. The move also meant that the tweet could not be retweeted or liked, to prevent it from being amplified.

“Now that we clearly see Antifa as terrorists, can we hunt them down like we do those in the Middle East?” Mr. Gaetz had tweeted on Monday, referring to the far-left anti-fascist activist movement. Shortly after his tweet was hidden, he reposted a message from the president that called for a law that gives technology companies some legal immunities to be revoked. “Their warning is my badge of honor,” he wrote later on Monday.

Twitter last week engaged in a face-off with the president after adding fact-check labels to two of his tweets and then restricting a post in which Mr. Trump said that looting during the protests would lead to shooting. While the San Francisco company was applauded by some for taking more responsibility for the kinds of posts that appear on its platform, others said it was biased against conservatives like Mr. Trump.

Still, Twitter acted again, hiding Mr. Gaetz’s post behind a warning label — though it stopped short of taking down his message altogether.

“The Tweet is in violation of our glorification of violence policy,” a Twitter spokesman said.

Twitter last year announced a labeling system that marks tweets from public figures that violate its policies while allowing the messages to remain because they are the subject of significant public interest.

But it did not use the system to flag any messages from U.S. politicians until Friday, when Mr. Trump weighed in on the clashes between the police and protesters in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in police custody. Mr. Trump tweeted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

After Twitter added the label to the message that it had violated its policy about glorifying violence, the official Twitter account for the White House republished Mr. Trump’s tweet. Twitter hid that tweet as well. The phrase was used in the 1960s by a Miami police chief widely condemned by civil rights groups.

Earlier last week, the company had invoked a separate policy against election interference to place a fact-check label on two tweets from Mr. Trump in which he falsely asserted that mail-in ballots for the November election were being illegally distributed and would lead to widespread election fraud.

In response to Twitter’s actions, Mr. Trump last Thursday signed an executive order that was meant to chip away at liability protections that social media companies have for the content that is posted on their sites. The executive order specifically targets a statute known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Technology companies have argued that the law is essential to their operations. But some lawmakers have said that the companies enjoy unchecked power and have proposed modifications to the law. Mr. Trump’s order is likely to face significant legal challenges, experts have said.

Twitter has drawn criticism for acting inconsistently with the labels. On Monday, Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, also posted on Twitter calling for a military crackdown on protests, adding, “No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.”

Some people argued that the tweet also glorified violence and called on Twitter to remove it, but the company said Mr. Cotton’s post did not violate its rules.

“It’s never possible to be completely consistent with any policy about speech. You have to draw lines somewhere and the lines are always going to be a little bit arbitrary,” said James Grimmelmann, a law professor at Cornell University. “There is no apolitical position.”

Cecilia Kang contributed reporting from Washington.

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