Twitter won't block world leaders, citing need for discourse

WASHINGTON • Twitter has said it would not block the accounts of world leaders even if their statements are "controversial", citing a need to promote a "public conversation" on political issues.

The announcement last Friday came just days after a tweet from President Donald Trump, hinting at the use of United States nuclear weapons, sparked criticism that the social network was allowing threats of violence.

"Twitter is here to serve and help advance the global, public conversation. Elected world leaders play a critical role in that conversation because of their outsized impact on our society," the California-based company said in a blog post.

"Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions."

Twitter made no specific reference to Mr Trump or his tweet last week saying he has a "nuclear button" which is "bigger and more powerful" than that of North Korea's.

The latest announcement comes less than a month after Twitter began enforcing new rules aimed at filtering out "hateful" and "abusive" content on the social network, including messages which promote or glorify violence.

Twitter, which has struggled to maintain an open platform without allowing violence or hate speech, said at the time that it would not cut off accounts for military or government entities. But the statement now leaves open the possibility that Twitter could remove specific tweets from political leaders which violate its policies.

"We review tweets by leaders within the political context that defines them and enforce our rules accordingly," the statement said. "We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Twitter won't block world leaders, citing need for discourse'. Print Edition | Subscribe