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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Twitter changes tack on why it allowed Trump retweets of violent videos to remain

Originally the service said they were newsworthy, now it claims that they didn't violate the service's terms of usage

Although Donald Trump was handed the reins to the official @POTUS Twitter account after his predecessor, Barack Obama, left office in January, he has preferred to continue to tweet from his personal account, which he - rather than his staff - controls. J David Ake / AP
Although Donald Trump was handed the reins to the official @POTUS Twitter account after his predecessor, Barack Obama, left office in January, he has preferred to continue to tweet from his personal account, which he - rather than his staff - controls. J David Ake / AP

The social media network Twitter clarified on Friday why it has allowed the anti-Muslim videos that president Donald Trump retweeted earlier this week to remain visible on the service.

Having previously said that the videos, whose provenance is questionable at best and one of which appears to show a young man being killed, were allowed to stand because they were ‘newsworthy for public interest’, Twitter gave a different answer on Friday.

It said in a post through the official @TwitterSafety account that “Earlier this week Tweets were sent that contained graphic and violent videos. We pointed people to our Help Center to explain why they remained up, and this caused some confusion.”

A second tweet then said that “To clarify: these videos are not being kept up because they are newsworthy or for public interest. Rather, these videos are permitted on Twitter based on our current media policy”, accompanying the post with a link to the Twitter media policy, which advises on what is and isn’t acceptable on the platform.

“We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn’t take action on the videos from earlier this week,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted. “We’re still looking critically at all of our current policies, and appreciate all the feedback.”

According to his company's own rules, ‘some forms of graphic violence or adult content may be permitted in Tweets when they are marked as sensitive media. However, you may not include this type of content in live video... Additionally, we may sometimes require you to remove media containing excessively graphic violence out of respect for the deceased and their families.’

It goes on to describe what is considered graphic violence or adult content: ‘We consider graphic violence to be any form of gory media related to death, serious injury, violence, or surgical procedures.’ One of the examples given is of ‘the depiction of the moment at which someone dies.’

There has been a widely held belief that Twitter will never censor or suspend the president from their service because he is an incredible driver of traffic to the service – which has yet to ever make a profit – through his 43.8 million followers.

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Read more:

Trump fires back at Britain’s May after she tells him it was 'wrong' to re-tweet anti-Muslim videos

Trump Twitter account retweets Britain First anti-Muslim videos

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When one user of the service put this to Mr Dorsey, asking “Jack do you think the reason is because you desperately need Trump to keep using Twitter so he gets to do whatever he wants?” the Twitter boss dismissed the accusation.

The retweeting of the original posts by the deputy leader of a tiny far-right political group called Britain First has caused a diplomatic hoo-ha between American and one of its staunchest allies, the UK.

The British prime minister Theresa May called Trump’s decision to do this “wrong,” saying that he was contributing to “hateful narratives.” The president shot back in a late-night tweet that Mrs May shouldn’t “focus on me, focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom”.

An emergency debate in the British parliament after the spat saw the president labelled a “fascist”, “stupid” and accused him of “spreading evil” by MPs in scenes never seen before in the chamber of the House of Commons when describing an American president.

A long-planned state visit to the UK appears to have been kicked into the long grass after politicians of every major party called for the trip, which was offered on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II by Theresa May in January on a visit to the White House, to be called off.