Twitter said on Thursday that it would begin labeling tweets from political figures that it could otherwise have taken down for breaking its rules. Before this, Twitter had maintained that such tweets from national leaders – even allegedly hateful ones – should remain in full public view as it was in the public interest to see the their views unfettered. The company said the new policy applies to government officials/appointees and political candidates who have verified accounts with more than 100,000 followers, and will be used rarely. Before users can view tweets that the company has flagged for violating its guidelines, they will need to click on a notice that reads: “The Twitter Rules about abusive behaviour apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.” This notice won’t be applied to any tweets sent before June 27, the company said.

Twitter said it would also take steps to de-prioritise such tweets “to strike the right balance between enabling free expression, fostering accountability, and reducing the potential harm caused by these tweets”. It said such tweets won’t appear in safe search results; in timelines set to show Top Tweets rather than chronological tweets; live events pages; push notifications for recommended tweets; the notifications tab; and Explore. It added, however, that tweets containing direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence were “unlikely to be considered in the public interest” and would be removed.

How will Twitter decide when to use this notice?

The company said a team including Trust and Safety, Legal, Public Policy and regional teams would determine if the tweets were a matter of public interest based on the following considerations:

  • The immediacy and severity of potential harm from the rule violation, with an emphasis on ensuring physical safety;
  • Whether preserving a tweet would allow others to hold the the government official, candidate, or appointee accountable for their statements;
  • Whether there were other sources of information about the statement available for the public to stay informed;
  • If removal would inadvertently hide context or prevent people from understanding an issue of public concern;
  • If the Tweet provided a unique context or perspective not available elsewhere that was necessary for a broader discussion.

Facebook reveals plans for oversight board with outside experts

Twitter’s decision comes at a time when technology companies are under pressure to monitor their platforms for hate speech, abuse and election manipulation. On Thursday, Facebook revealed details about its plan to create an oversight board of outside experts to help make decisions about how the company polices content. It published a 44-page report summarising what it had learned from speaking to about 900 people and reviewing more than 1,200 public comments about the idea. The report suggested that Facebook could give the body the power to influence its policies rather than just the ability to review content decisions.