US President Donald Trump's staff considered asking Twitter to slap a 15-minute delay on Trump's tweets during his early days in office, so the posts could be vetted, but the idea was ditched over fears it might leak to the press or to Trump himself. That's the word from The New York Times, which published a special report Saturday on Trump and Twitter.
The Times reviewed all of Trump's more than 11,000 tweets, as well as the hundreds of accounts the president has retweeted. It also looked at who Trump follows and interviewed a number of inside sources.
Among the other nuggets in the Times report:
- Trump "has retweeted at least 145 unverified accounts that push conspiracy or extremist content," the Times says, "including more than two dozen that have since been suspended by Twitter." The accounts have involved "white nationalists, anti-Muslim bigots and adherents of QAnon," the Times says.
- Foreign spies have noticed that Trump scrolls through tweets that mention his Twitter handle, and they use the method to get his attention, win retweets, gain followers and spread their messages. "Twitter accounts tied to state-sponsored propaganda operations in China, Iran and Russia have directed thousands of posts at Mr. Trump," the Times says. "The accounts frequently promoted conspiracy theories or support for Mr. Trump's policies." The Times reports that Trump retweeted a post by a bogus Russian account that said, "We love you, Mr. President."
- Over half of Trump's more than 11,000 tweets have been attacks on others, the Times says. "But in more than 2,000 tweets, Mr. Trump has cited one person for praise: himself."
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment on the Times report. Twitter declined to comment.
Trump's fondness for Twitter is no secret, of course. To his base, the president's provocative tweets are a daily reminder they backed a Washington outsider who revels in using a "tremendous platform" to bypass what he calls the "fake media." To his critics, Trump has used the social media site to create false controversies aimed at switching attention away from things like the impeachment inquiry and to disseminate misinformation and make threats. Twitter has faced numerous calls to boot Trump off the platform over allegations that he's spreading hate speech or inciting violence.
In response to such concerns, Twitter in June changed how it would handle tweets from politicians and government leaders that violate its rules but that the social network says should still be accessible in the name of public interest. As part of efforts to combat harassment, abuse and other issues on its site, the social network said it would begin placing a notice over such tweets and requiring users to click on the warning to see the tweet.
Last month, Twitter said users won't be able to like, reply, share or retweet these tweets, but they'll still be able to share the tweet with a comment. Twitter says it will remove a tweet if it "includes a declarative call to action that could harm a specific individual or group" or interferes with someone's rights.
Originally published Nov. 2, 11:46 a.m. PT.
Update, 12:13 p.m.: Adds detail from Times report.