Twitter is never, ever going to ban Donald Trump for reasons ranging from the self-apparent (he’s the president, and a conspiracy-obsessed one at that) to perhaps the cynical (whether or not his incessant tweeting helps the company’s bottom line).
It’s also never going to engage in anything more than the most delicate of responses to his flagrant rule violations, like suspending people he’s retweeted. But on Tuesday, the social media site denied in a blog post that world leaders are “above our policies” while simultaneously carving out a massive loophole wide enough to drive Trump’s golf cart through.
In a blog post—possibly prompted by Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris’s call for the site to ban Trump—Twitter explained that its moderation team reads any tweets reported to be in violation of its policies as written and does “not attempt to determine all potential interpretations of the content or its intent.” Twitter added that when world leaders directly interact with other public figures, tweet about politics, or threaten other countries on the site, they do not consider it a violation of their rules:
Presently, direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules.
Additionally, Twitter noted that some tweets from world leaders that do break other rules may be preserved for “clear public interest value,” though they might just slap a little disclaimer on it.
Rule violations by world leaders that Twitter will take action on include terrorism promotion, doxxing with private information, posting non-consensual “intimate photos or videos,” child sexual exploitation, and “encouraging or promoting self-harm.”
Then there’s “clear and direct threats of violence against an individual.” However, Twitter wrote that this violation would “likely not result in enforcement” if the threat was in the “context” of things like “direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues.” If that sounds like a loophole that would allow a world leader to threaten almost anyone, it’s because it is.
Twitter didn’t mention copyright violations, though it’s purged Trump content in the past for unauthorized use of copyrighted material. But it also neglected to mention racial or gender based harassment, which could be taken to mean that it would let a world leader, say, tweet racial slurs. This tracks with its policy of letting Trump tweet racist diatribes with absolutely no consequences.
“With critical elections and shifting political dynamics around the world, we recognize that we’re operating in an increasingly complex and polarized political culture,” Twitter concluded, uselessly.
TL;DR: Trump is not above Twitter’s rules, except for most of the rules, or when he is above the remaining rules, which is dependent on “context.” Go status quo!
Update: 10:55 p.m. ET: During a Democratic primary debate on Tuesday, Harris tried (apparently very poorly) to get fellow contender Senator Elizabeth Warren to agree Trump should be banned from the site, per the Daily Beast.
“I would urge you to join me because here we have Donald Trump, who has 65 million Twitter followers and is using that platform as the president of the United States to openly intimidate witnesses, to threaten witnesses, to obstruct justice,” Harris said. “And he and his account should be taken down.”
“Look, I don’t just want to push Donald Trump off Twitter,” Warren responded. “I want to push him out of the White House. That’s our job.”
“... So join me in saying that his Twitter account should be shut down,” Harris continued.
“No,” Warren said.
“No?” Harris concluded.