On Twitter, Trump will soon have to follow the same rules as everyone else

Trump's tweets will lose Twitter's "public interest" protections once he's no longer president.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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Edward Moyer
2 min read
Donald Trump and social media
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It seems it won't be long before President Donald Trump will have to follow the same rules and regulations on Twitter as everybody else -- or risk having his tweets removed.

With multiple news outlets calling the presidential race for Joe Biden on Saturday, it looks like Trump -- aka the notoriously provocative tweeter @realDonaldTrump -- will be leaving the Oval Office in January. And at that point, his tweets would no longer be subject to the "public interest" exceptions Twitter makes for government leaders.

The exceptions policy "applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions," a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement Saturday.

The social network leaves up some posts by officials even if the content breaks its rules against things like abusive behavior or glorifying violence. In May, for instance, Twitter let stand a tweet by Trump that referred to anti-racism protests and included the comment "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." In June, it left up another protest-related Trump tweet that spoke of people being "met with serious force!"

Read more: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube wrestle with election misinformation

More recently, a number of Trump tweets containing baseless claims about the presidential election have been left accessible to Twitter users. And then there've been Trump's tweets about the coronavirus.

In all these cases, the social network has obscured the tweets with a warning label that's included a link to more information or context. Users have to click a View link in the alert label to go ahead and read the post. Twitter lets tweets remain accessible in this way if it determines they're in the public interest, which means a post "directly contributes to understanding or discussion of a matter of public concern," according to a company page about the exceptions.

"Twitter's approach to world leaders, candidates and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context," the Twitter spokesperson said in the Saturday statement. "This means that we may apply warnings and labels, and limit engagement to certain tweets."

But once Trump is no longer president, any rule-breaking tweets posted to his @realDonaldTrump account might well get booted.

Twitter notes it doesn't give government leaders completely free rein. Certain types of content can be taken down regardless, including posts that promote terrorism and tweets that contain other people's private information, like an address or home phone number, without their consent.