Twitter pledges to update public policies after Trump threatens North Korea

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter didn’t act to remove President Donald Trump’s tweet threatening North Korea in part because it is newsworthy, the company said today. Twitter says it will update its public guidance on what factors may lead to a tweet being pulled from the platform — or allowed to stay on it — to include a consideration of newsworthiness, as part of an effort to make the rules clearer to users.

“This has long been internal policy, and we'll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it,” the company’s public policy account wrote this afternoon. “We need to do better on this, and will.”

There’s been controversy since the 2016 primaries over whether Twitter should ban Trump’s account or hide some of his tweets, which often insult other individuals. Twitter hasn’t done anything, but the issue roiled up again today after North Korea said it saw the US President’s tweet as a “clear declaration of war.” For a platform that has long claimed its rules apply to all users, no matter who they are, a perceived declaration of war seemed like it might just cross the line.

Twitter’s answer, however, basically implies that Trump’s account will never be censored. Anything the President tweets is newsworthy, which means that none of his tweets can be pulled from the platform.

This kind of problem — minus the war threats — isn’t entirely unique to Twitter. Facebook has run into this issue from the other side: it was criticized last year for banning an iconic war photo because it otherwise violated the site’s terms of service. Facebook ultimately backtracked and decided to consider the “history and global importance” of the photo and suggested, to some extent, that consideration would extend to other posts.

Twitter’s newsworthiness standard makes plenty of sense, but it could present the platform with some issues. It’ll have to start deciding who else’s tweets qualify as newsworthy. It’ll also have to take this into consideration when a private individual’s tweet blows up — is that tweet suddenly newsworthy too? Twitter implies that it’s been factoring this in all along, but now that it’s planning to lay this out in a public-facing document, it’ll be easier for visitors to tell how consistently it’s being applied.


Crazy that there even needs to be discussion about whether THE PRESIDENT’S tweets are too offensive/abusive/etc to remain posted. Our country has jumped the shark.

Since Nov/2016.

I fucking hate this country.

Hey! Just a reminder to leave twitter!

I just deleted the app this morning. It’s funny how many times I’ll unlock my phone and go to tap it to find it isn’t there. Best decision I’ve made in a while.

Perhaps. But Twitter is kind of the de facto social media platform of record. It’s the one most people use to follow current events and discuss them. Removing yourself from the conversation doesn’t keep them from happening, you just keep yourself in the dark until you find out about it later some other way.

It’s the de facto until we all leave and switch to something better lol
You have to start somewhere.

What’s the better alternative? I haven’t used social media in a while, so I’m not really up to date. The only other one I hear people talking about is instagram, and surely that’s not a better alternative for fostering discussion?

I mean Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook are all well-established and successful social networks. But they do not fill the need that Twitter does.


People have been saying that for like 9 years. Still waiting on something "better."

I don’t. (Or at least very rarely, only when I’m trying to check out something late breaking the the news media hasn’t covered well enough yet.) No one I know really does. Yes singular anecdotes aren’t evidence but you’ve provided no real evidence either.

I’m not denying some people do, but a lot of people don’t. It’s definitely not most people, considering Twitter is still banned in China AFAIK (yes some people get around this but they’re cracking down on VPNs etc so you can be sure that plenty of people there do not ever use twiter) and pleny of people do not have regular access to the internet even in the smart phone era.

Even if you’re limiting yourself the developed English speaking world, or even the US, I think you’ll still find a very large percentage of people do not use Twitter much. By various reports, it only has ~70 million active users in the US a country with a population over 300 million. I’m not sure how well this accounts for people who read but don’t participate but even doubling the number doesn’t make it most people in the US.

Social media has affected the world in a lot numerous ways but even with the US having a Twitter president a heck of a lot of stuff still happens outside of Twitter. Also people discussing the news etc on Facebook, WhatsApp etc even in private are still part of how people follow current events, form opinions etc, even among millenials regardless of it being in private. A lot of stuff can’t fit even in 280 characters, so you actually often gain very little from Twitter directly, you need other sources to really get information.

Because of it’s public, open nature, it’s probably fair to say that Twitter tends to be the social media platform which has the most public discussion about current events in the English speaking world (possibly most of the developed world although I’m not so certain about that), but that’s an entirely different point.

I left Twitter before it was cool. In 2008. So also before Twitter was cool.

You left twitter as a preemptive measure against its impeding coolness. Very cool.

I can’t believe some are surprised by this. The amount of traffic twitter gets bcs of potus is keeping the company basically afloat.

Correct. It’s still funny that the company hides behind policies. Those it invented for itself, and implements as it pleases.
But Twitter is not alone in that game. Who knows how much ad money Facebook made thanks to Trump, or all the other media outlets, creating a story out of every f@rt escaping him.

Seems like you’re implying that Twitter would not survive without Trump. That’s a pretty ridiculous implication.

Well the comment was clearly in jest, but it’s really not that ridiculous… Twitter’s growth is basically stagnant and they are losing money.

If they deleted Trump’s account they’d have a decent shot at the Nobel Peace Prize.

This oompa-loompa really wants a war under his belt, doesn’t he?

Every POTUS does.

Sources for that or are you talking sideways?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I didn’t see Obama go out of his way to start a war with anyone or blatantly threaten anyone like Trump is with North Korea. Obama (and Trump) inherited that shit storm in the Middle East.

Obama wasn’t faced with massive scandal and criminal investigation.
No Drama Obama..
Probably the only president ever not to be embroiled in scandal and bullshit.

His only real crime was being the first and only black president. < /snark >

He didn’t get much done. (For reasons largely out of his control, but still, if you want to go the Blame Obama route, the lack of significant foreign policy progress on Russia, Syria, China, ISIS, and of course N. Korea would be the obvious oppo folders to choose. Offset only slightly by improvements towards Cuba and Iran.)

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