By Newley Purnell and Andrew Restuccia
Twitter Inc. shielded from public view tweets from President
Trump and the White House for breaking what the company said are
its rules about glorifying violence, a step that is likely to
escalate tension between the president and the social-media
The decision came one day after Mr. Trump signed an executive
order taking aim at what he alleged was censorship by social-media
companies, calling Twitter "an editor with a viewpoint."
Mr. Trump, in tweets posted shortly after midnight on Friday,
criticized protesters clashing with police in Minneapolis over the
death of George Floyd, a black man who died Monday after a white
officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to his neck. The
protests have turned increasingly violent, with a police station
being set on fire overnight.
The president called the demonstrators thugs and warned: "when
the looting starts, the shooting starts."
That phrase has a fraught history dating back to 1967, when
Miami Police Chief Walter Headley used it at a news conference to
explain how the threat of police violence had prevented riots and
looting in the city. Mr. Headley's comments and his "get tough"
approach to crime sparked outrage in Miami's black community, and
riots broke out in the city in the summer of 1968.
Mr. Trump's post can now only be seen after users click a box
with a notice saying it violated Twitter's rules against
encouraging violence, but it otherwise remains visible.
The official White House Twitter account repeated Mr. Trump's
comments in a Friday morning tweet, and Twitter appended the same
notice to that tweet. The same comments appeared on Mr. Trump's
Facebook account without a cautionary notice.
"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," Twitter said on its official communications
The company said users' ability to interact with the tweet will
be limited, and that users can retweet it with comment, but not
like, reply to, or otherwise retweet it.
In the tweets, which were posted to his account at 12:53 a.m.,
Mr. Trump criticized Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, a Democrat,
alleging a "total lack of leadership" in response to the protests.
Mr. Trump also suggested that the federal government could take a
more central role in responding to the protests, warning of the
potential for intensifying violence.
"...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!" Mr. Trump's tweet said.
Mr. Trump said he would send the National Guard to Minnesota.
Gov. Walz activated the National Guard on Thursday.
Mr. Frey responded to Mr. Trump's tweets during a news
conference early Friday. " Donald Trump knows nothing about the
strength of Minneapolis. We are strong as hell. Is this a difficult
time period? Yes. But you better be damn sure that we're going to
get through this," he said.
The White House didn't respond to a request for comment about
the president's tweets.
The move by Twitter escalates a dispute with the president that
could change the legal environment in which the industry operates.
Mr. Trump on Thursday signed an executive order seeking to limit
the broad protection that federal law currently provides to
social-media and other internet platforms, a move expected to draw
immediate court challenges.
The president signed the executive order after Twitter on
Tuesday moved for the first time to apply a fact-checking notice to
tweets by the president on the subject of voter fraud.
The executive order seeks to make it easier for federal
regulators to hold companies like Twitter and Facebook liable for
unfairly curbing speech by suspending users' accounts or deleting
their posts, for example.
Speaking just before signing the order Thursday, Mr. Trump
described the platform's fact-check of his tweets as "political
"Imagine if your phone company silenced or edited your
conversations. Social-media companies have vastly more power and
more reach than any phone company in the United States," he
On Friday morning, Mr. Trump again criticized Twitter. "Twitter
is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put
out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party," he wrote. "They
have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the
United States." He called on Congress to overturn Section 230 of
the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides companies like
Twitter protection for defamation lawsuits over negative comments
posted by users.
Twitter's rules against glorification of violence prohibit
comments that could inspire others to commit similar acts, or that
praise or condone violence where ethnic or racial groups are
The company also has public-interest exceptions under which it
may preserve posts that violate its policies when they come from
government officials and could contribute to discussion about
matters of concern.
"As a result, in rare instances, we may choose to leave up a
Tweet from an elected or government official that would otherwise
be taken down," Twitter's policy on public-interest exceptions
Though this week marked the first time that Twitter put
notifications on Mr. Trump's tweets, the company in March applied
the label "manipulated media" to the bottom of a video circulated
by Dan Scavino, a senior adviser to the president.
Mr. Trump's tweets followed the third day of protests and
escalating violence in Minneapolis over the death of Mr. Floyd. The
city's Third Precinct police station, which has been a central site
for demonstrations, was taken over and set on fire late Thursday,
according to local news reports and video posted on social
Mr. Trump has expressed outrage over the death of Mr. Floyd and
called for an expedited federal investigation.
Write to Newley Purnell at firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrew
Restuccia at Andrew.Restuccia@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 29, 2020 10:44 ET (14:44 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.