A Twitter account that copies everything that Donald Trump tweets was suspended 68 hours after its creation for violating the social media site’s rules about glorifying violence.
The account, “@SuspendThePres”, was started as an experiment by user “@BizzareLazar” in order to determine whether Mr Trump was indeed violating Twitter’s terms of service. Twitter has faced criticism for not taking enough action against Mr Trump’s posts, and has introduced many new rules about the newsworthiness of his content in order to keep it on the platform.
The tweet that finally got the account suspended was the president’s message following the George Floyd protests: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
On the president's account, that tweet resulted in a label from Twitter stating that the president was “glorifying violence” but would not be removed because “Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible”.
Mr Trump’s comment that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” originated from a Miami's police chief amid racial violence there in 1967. Mr Trump said he did not know the origin of the phrase, but that “it’s accurate”.
When the SuspendThePres account tweeted the same message, the account was suspended for 12 hours and the offending tweet had to be deleted.
Experiment Update - Well it finally happened. Took longer than expected. 12 hour suspension and had to delete the offending tweet. Here’s the screenshots @suspendthepres. Will post to the account when suspension is lifted. pic.twitter.com/wvKV9HDKBn— Bizarre Lazar (@BizarreLazar)June 1, 2020
“I believe we as a free society which is more and more dependent on social media to gather our information are responsible for holding our elected officials accountable for the content they put out there,” the person behind the account told Mashable. “Social media platforms themselves have the same responsibilities however they can be hamstrung by certain limitations.”
“In a world leader's case, Twitter makes the argument that their content is important to be able be viewed regardless of its content to further national interest in the conversation. While I don’t disagree with that statement I feel we should also know if that content would otherwise violate a platforms [terms of service].”
The account's suspension has since been lifted and it will continue copying the president's messages in an attempt to highlight the difference in Twitter's approach to the same messages posted by an average user compared to one of its most powerful accounts.
Mr Trump is not the only Twitter account that has received the label. The official White House account, managed by the Trump administration but funded by US taxpayers, also tweeted the message and had the same label applied to it. Republican congressman Matt Gaetz also had the label applied for a different tweet, which Twitter also said glorified violence.
Mr Trump has since called to limit the powers social media companies have and has signed an executive order to roll back Section 230, a piece of American legislation which protects companies from being legally responsible for content on their platforms. That regulation protects all companies, from multinational social media sites to tiny blogs, and if passed could have huge ramifications for the global internet.