As our first extremely online commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump has presented a host of problems for his favorite social media site, Twitter.
While Twitter’s terms of service expressly prohibit threatening violence, the president has used the platform to threaten nuclear war. It tries to fight hate speech, but the president shares videos from hate groups. Even before he was president, Trump flirted with violating Twitter’s rules: He routinely tweeted about taking Iraq’s oil when America occupied the nation, which is considered a violation of international law.
All the while, he’s railed that Twitter is biased against him and other conservatives, turning any action the company takes against his behavior into a political minefield. Twitter has routinely demurred and refused to answer questions about policy surrounding Trump’s tweets. In an interview with HuffPost, when asked if Trump calling for someone’s murder on the platform would constitute a violation, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey refused to answer even that, saying that Twitter would “talk about it.”
Thankfully, Twitter, which routinely proposes flawed solutions for problems that need real fixes—like taking years to curb the spread of white nationalism because its CEO objected to banning white supremacists—has come up with a flawed solution to this.
At a conference with the Washington Post on Thursday, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust, Vijaya Gadde, proposed adding a warning if Trump or other officials tweeted something that violated Twitter’s terms of service:
“One of the things we’re working really closely on with our product and engineering folks is, ‘How can we label that? How can we put some context around it so people are aware that that content is actually a violation of our rules and it is serving a particular purpose in remaining on the platform.”
In other words, there would be no regulation beyond a “this tweet violates Twitter’s terms of service” warning.
Earlier this month, in an interview, Trump claimed that he had the support of the police and military, insinuating violence against people who oppose him. If he tweeted that now, nothing would happen.
Under Twitter’s proposed solution, after he tweeted it, it might say: “This tweet may be in violation of Twitter’s rules.”
Whether you believe the president should be allowed to use the platform indiscriminately or should be bound by its rules is one question. But the only thing this solution will achieve is helping Twitter cover itself from rampant and ongoing criticism about how it filters the president’s inflammatory language.