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For the second time, Twitter flagged a message from President Trump with a warning, saying that his post-midnight tweet calling for the military to shoot protesters in Minneapolis was “glorifying violence.”
As protests over the death of George Floyd escalated to the burning of a police station late Thursday, Trump took to Twitter after midnight to write, “I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”
Trump then followed with a tweet saying, “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Twitter added a notice to the tweet that users had to click through in order to read it, writing, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
The social media platform issued a statement saying, “We have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realdonaldtrump. This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today. 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.”
On Friday morning, the official White House account posted a tweet with the same language that had been flagged. Twitter later added the same warning it had placed on the Trump tweet.
The quote referencing looting and shooting was first used by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967, referring to black protesters who were upset with the city’s “stop and frisk” policies, which included dangling a black teenager over a bridge. The quote and policies are viewed as having sparked race riots in the city the following year.
“I will not lift the President’s tweet,” said presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in a tweet Friday morning. “I will not give him that amplification. But he is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many. I’m furious, and you should be too.”
The protests over the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody on Monday, escalated overnight and included the burning of a police precinct station that had been evacuated by the police. The four officers involved with the death were fired, but on Thursday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he would not rush in pressing charges against them, stating that “there is other evidence that does not support a criminal charge.”
Freeman’s office later issued a clarification to that comment, saying it is being misinterpreted.
“To clarify, County Attorney Freeman was saying that it is critical to review all the evidence because at the time of trial, invariably, all that information will be used,” the attorney’s office said. “Evidence not favorable to our case needs to be carefully examined to understand the full picture of what actually happened.”
Trump has been in a back-and-forth with Twitter over the course of the week after the company added fact-check language to two of the president’s posts that falsely claimed mail-in ballots contribute to widespread voter fraud. “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read a message below the tweets, linking to a fact-check page populated by links and summaries of news articles debunking the assertion.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order purporting to strip legal protections from Twitter and other social media companies, although experts believe it would require an act of Congress to actually have a real effect.
This week Twitter was asked to remove posts in which the president demanded an investigation of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough in the death of a young woman who died in his office in 2001. Lori Klausutis’s death was ruled an accident, and there is no evidence implicating Scarborough, who was a Florida congressman at the time. Her husband, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey protesting Trump’s tweets, saying the president had “perverted” the memory of his late wife for political gain.
Twitter said it was “deeply sorry” but that it would not remove the posts, and it has not posted a fact check or disclaimer in reply.
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