Twitter's new plan to address Trump's worst tweets won't actually stop him


The recently released plan to minimize the reach of violent world leaders such as Trump simply doesn't go far enough.

Twitter has a Trump problem.

Donald Trump routinely breaks the platform's terms of service, tweeting out lies and inciting violence. But somehow it's fine because it's Trump. There's been considerable pressure on Twitter to address this behavior, but the company has resisted. However, after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) called for Trump's account to be suspended during the Democratic debate on Tuesday, Twitter came out with a plan that will likely please no one.

On Wednesday, Twitter issued a lengthy statement that, boiled down, simply says they're going to keep letting Trump and other world leaders post anything they want, but that everyone else on Twitter will have to manually retweet and comment, rather than being able to like, reply, and retweet as normal.

It's unclear how this would help. Trump's lies and attacks will still be spread far and wide via quote tweet. Worse, the proposed solution actually stops Trump's constituents from interacting with him. If Twitter decides that one of Trump's tweets is so reprehensible it warrants the manual retweet treatment, Trump still gets to say whatever he wants, but no one can reply to him. Functionally, his bad behavior is rewarded by insulating him from any response about how bad his behavior is.

And make no mistake, Trump's behavior on Twitter is terrible. Harris' concerns revolve around Trump's use of Twitter to "target, harass, and attempt to out the whistleblower" who alerted the intelligence community to Trump's alleged quid pro quo phone call with Ukraine. Harris is also concerned about Trump using Twitter to call for a civil war if the Democrats impeach him.

Twitter's new policy also sets up an exception Trump will drive a truck through. The new policy bans "clear and direct threats of violence" unless the world leader's account is engaging in "direct interactions with fellow public figures and/or commentary on political and foreign policy issues." Many of Trump's worst tweets are also "commentary on political and foreign issues." Indeed, the case can be made that the tweets Harris is most concerned about fall under this exception because Trump is opining about impeachment. So, even the meager fix Twitter has proposed here will not be imposed on Trump in most circumstances.

Twitter has made clear, time and again, that it either doesn't know how to address the right-wing violence endemic to its platform or it isn't interested in doing so. Either way, it's a place where Trump will continue to threaten and thrive.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.