Thetook a fresh turn Friday, as the two locked horns over Trump's tweets about protests and riots in Minnesota.
Trump's latest ire was sparked by Twitter's decision to place one of his tweets behind a label stating that the content violated its rules about "glorifying violence." Rather than being deleted, the tweet is veiled by the label and can still be read by clicking on it.
"This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence," states the label, applied early Friday. "However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."
Trump was tweeting about the protests and riots taking place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following the death of a black man named George Floyd in police custody on Monday. In the veiled tweet, Trump called the protesters "thugs" after threatening to send in the National Guard. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," he said in the veiled tweet, which he posted overnight.
The official White House Twitter account on Friday morning reposted the hidden tweet in full. Twitter again placed the label over it. A Twitter spokesperson on Friday confirmed that it covered the identical tweet with a label because of the "historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today." That statement reiterated a tweet thread from the company's communications team account earlier Friday.
The phrase -- "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" -- definitely has "historical context." Miami Police Chief Walter Headley used the phrase in 1967, according to news reports at the time. The remark has been cited as contributing to tensions that sparked race riots in Miami in the late 1960s, according to The Washington Post.
Trump's tweet was widely condemned by rights organizations including Amnesty International and ACLU, as well as by celebrities such as Taylor Swift, who tweeted at Trump that he'd been "stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency."
The president struck back at Twitter on Friday in a tweet, claiming that the company is targeting him and reinforcing his earlier threat of regulation.
All this comes amid escalating tensions between the company and the White House, following Twitter's decision earlier this week to apply a fact-checking label to another of Trump's tweets for containing "potentially misleading information" about mail-in voting ballots. On Thursday, Trumpcalling on the government to review a federal law that protects online companies from liability for content posted by users.
Twitter's use of labels is part of its strategy to crack down on the spread of misinformation and other forms of harmful content, following pressure from governments worldwide to shoulder more responsibility for stemming the flow of false information.
Once a label has been applied to a tweet, it can no longer be liked, retweeted or replied to, although other Twitter users can retweet the original tweet with their own comment attached.
The San Francisco-based company explained in a tweet thread its decision to apply a "public interest notice" via its official Twitter Comms account on Friday. "We've taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance," it added.
Critics of the social media company have claimed that by applying labels to tweets, Twitter is censoring free speech. Trump has previously accused social media sites of being, and the that lets people report social media accounts they suspect of being banned due to political bias.
Representatives of the White House didn't respond to a request for comment.