Twitter stands by Trump amid calls to terminate his account

Twitter is grappling with scrutiny for hosting US President Donald Trump's increasingly virulent messages about impeachment proceedings.
Twitter is grappling with scrutiny for hosting US President Donald Trump's increasingly virulent messages about impeachment proceedings.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (NYTIMES) - Twitter said on Tuesday (Oct 15) that it would continue to be lenient with world leaders who appeared to violate its policies against violent speech because the company believed preserving those tweets served the public interest.

The announcement came as Twitter grapples with scrutiny for hosting United States President Donald Trump's increasingly virulent messages about the impeachment proceedings against him.

Under pressure from Democrats to take action against Mr Trump's account, Twitter said that it would take action against a world leader's account only if it was used to threaten an individual, promote terrorism or self-harm, or post private information like a phone number.

"The accounts of world leaders are not above our policies entirely," the company said in a blog post. "Presently, direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy sabre-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules."

The social media service has been under growing pressure since a whistle-blower complaint emerged in September that Mr Trump sought to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain. Since then, the House has initiated a formal impeachment inquiry against the President, prompting Mr Trump to tweet a string of messages that some have called threatening and bullying.

In one instance, the President said on Twitter that the unnamed whistle-blower might be a spy. He also quoted a Fox News guest who said impeachment could lead to chaos akin to a civil war and referred to the impeachment proceedings as a "coup" intended to strip Americans of their rights. He also called for the arrest of Representative Adam Schiff, who is closely involved in the impeachment process, for treason.

The tweets have raised questions for Twitter. Senator Kamala Harris, who is running to be the Democratic presidential nominee, called on Twitter earlier this month to suspend Mr Trump's account. In a letter to Twitter's chief executive, Mr Jack Dorsey, Ms Harris said the President's tweets were "blatant threats" that clearly violated Twitter's policies.

"We need a civil society, not a civil war," she wrote.