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Twitter says Trump, other world leaders can tweet what they want

The social network says blocking or removing officials' tweets would hide information that's meant to be debated -- even if the tweets violate its rules.

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Twitter isn't going to put a leash on President Donald Trump.

The social network said in a blog post Friday that it won't block or remove controversial tweets from world leaders and elected officials, even when they otherwise break the site's rules.

Censoring them "would hide important information people should be able to see and debate," the company wrote in an unsigned blog post. Twitter added that removing their tweets "would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions."


Twitter critic Alan Marling has projected this image outside of the company's San Francisco headquarters for weeks. On Friday Twitter said world leaders can tweet what they want. 

Alan Marling

The statement marks Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's latest attempt to balance the occasionally incendiary way that high-profile people use its service and the site's strict community standards covering what content can and can't be posted. The most clear-cut example of this tension is Trump, whose sometimes inflammatory tweets have ignited debate about the consistency with which the company enforces The Twitter Rules that ban abusive behavior like targeted harassment and death threats. 

The move reinforces a similar statement made in late September after Twitter came under fire for not removing a series of controversial Trump tweets that threatened North Korea. Officials in the isolated country interpreted them as a "declaration of war." In a series of tweets at the time, Twitter said the newsworthiness of the tweet and the tweeter, as well as whether it's in the public interest, are all taken into consideration when deciding whether to delete material. 

"We hold all accounts to the same rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether tweets violate our rules," the company tweeted. "Among the considerations is 'newsworthiness' and whether a tweet is of public interest.'" 

Twitter declined to comment further Friday. The White House didn't respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and professor at Syracuse University, said Friday's blog post was all about one person: Trump. Since joining Twitter in March 2009, Trump has posted more than 35,000 tweets. And since becoming president a year ago, Trump has tweeted more than 2,400 times to criticize US' allies and adversaries, the FBI and Justice Department and NFL players protesting police treatment of African Americans by kneeling during the national anthem, according to

"There's been such outcry over his Twitter handle and whether he violates their rules," Grygiel said. "This is literally being addressed because of his tweets and the reaction he gets."

Still, Grygiel cautioned that Twitter may have opened itself up to new scrutiny because it didn't clarify how it defined a world leader. She noted that many people considered leaders aren't elected or formally in the government. 

Months of debate

Trump's controversial Twitter habits extend beyond what he says. The president, who tweets using his personal account rather than the White House's official POTUS account, has also blocked people who criticize him. That's led to a lawsuit on the grounds that the US Constitution's First Amendment allows people unfettered rights to petition their government.

One critic was disappointed with Twitter's position. Alan Marling, an artist who has more than 16,000 followers on Twitter and has spent several evenings in the past year with his projector beaming his critical commentaries onto the outside walls of Twitter's San Francisco headquarters, said Friday, "Today, Twitter gave us their answer."

He then recalled of the more recent commentaries he projected that asked: "Would Twitter Ban Hitler?"

Earlier Friday, Twitter said it reviews tweets "by leaders within the political context that defines them" and will enforce its rules as they see fit.

"We work hard to remain unbiased with the public interest in mind," the company said. "No one No one person's account drives Twitter's growth, or influences these decisions."

First published Jan. 5, 1:26 p.m. PT.
Update, 6:05 p.m.: Adds comments from a Twitter critic and background.

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