Today, Twitter is rolling out a new notice for tweets belonging to public figures that break its community guidelines. Now, if a figure like President Donald Trump were to tweet something that broke Twitter’s rules, the platform could notify users of the violation and lessen the reach of the tweet. In recent interviews, Twitter executives have hinted that a change like this would be coming soon.
This notice will only apply to tweets from accounts belonging to political figures, verified users, and accounts with more than 100,000 followers. If a tweet is flagged as violating platform rules, a team of people from across the company will decide whether it is a “matter of public interest.” If so, a light gray box will appear before the tweet notifying users that it’s in violation, but it will remain available to users who click through the box. In theory, this could preserve the tweet as part of the public record without allowing it to be promoted to new audiences through the Twitter platform.
“In the past, we’ve allowed certain Tweets that violated our rules to remain on Twitter because they were in the public’s interest, but it wasn’t clear when and how we made those determinations,” Twitter’s safety team wrote in a blog post. “Serving the public conversation includes providing the ability for anyone to talk about what matters to them; this can be especially important when engaging with government officials and political figures.”
If a tweet receives this notice, Twitter will feature it less on the platform. It will no longer appear in Safe search, the Top Tweets timeline, live events pages, recommended push notifications, the notifications tab, or the Explore page. The notice will not be applied retroactively, and it will only appear on tweets in violation beginning today.
Trump, in particular, has drawn criticism for perceived violations of Twitter’s rules. In 2017, he tweeted a picture showing himself wrestling with the CNN logo, which many saw as encouraging violence targeted at the media. In January 2018, Twitter specifically addressed calls to ban Trump from the service. “Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial Tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate,” the company said in a blog post at the time.
It’s unclear how often this new disclosure will be used, and Twitter wrote in its blog post today that it expects that this notice will rarely be applied.
“By nature of their positions these leaders have outsized influence and sometimes say things that could be considered controversial or invite debate and discussion,” today’s blog read. “A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable.”