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Does President Trump's online conduct warrant a Twitter ban?

Twitter executives say they strive to treat all users equally when it comes to abuse

Photo (c) geralt - Pixabay

Whether you love him or hate him, President Donald Trump is unlike any other man who has held the office before him. While getting a read on what a sitting president is thinking has been more nuanced and difficult in the past, there’s not much guesswork when it comes to Trump – all you have to do is read his Twitter feed.

However, that same Twitter feed can often turn vitriolic when Trump feels attacked or set upon by others, perhaps so much so that critics are questioning whether the account violates Twitter’s terms of use.

In a recent report, Recode asked Del Harvey, Twitter’s VP of Trust and Safety, if the site is able to treat Trump’s account like any other when it comes to suspending or banning it for being abusive. Although the executive prefaced her statement by saying that she couldn’t talk about individual accounts or hypotheticals, she said that the platform does its best to treat all users equally.

“We apply our policies consistently,” Harvey said. “We have processes in place to deal with whomever the person may be, we try to be as consistent as possible, as scalable as possible, and there’s always all sorts of context and other things that come into play that make it impossible to comment on hypotheticals as it is…The rules are the rules, we enforce them the same way for everybody.”

Crossing the line?

While the answer certainly won’t be enough to assuage the president’s critics, the answer brings up a lot of questions about whether Trump’s online conduct crosses the line.

Earlier this month, he re-tweeted a video of himself body-slamming a person with the CNN logo edited over their face. While seen as harmless by many, several media outlets and experts took it as a threat of violence against the media, which Trump has clashed with numerous times over the past year.

But according to Twitter’s own rules, posting any threat of violence against another entity is grounds for suspension or a permanent ban. The site also makes a similar distinction surrounding harassment and targeted abuse of others, and arguments could be made that past attacks of figures like Rosie O’Donnell or more recently Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski fit that bill.  


"Beneath the office"

Lawmakers have even questioned Trump’s use of the social media platform. After his attack on Scarborough and Brzezinski, members of Trump’s own party expressed their dissatisfaction with the President’s actions.

“Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a tweet of his own.

“Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” added House Speaker Paul Ryan. “What we’re trying to do around here is improve the tone, the civility, of the debate; and this obviously doesn’t help do that.”

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