Trump Tweet Threatening D.C. Protesters With ‘Serious Force’ Hidden by Twitter for ‘Abusive Behavior’

Todd Spangler

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Donald Trump is in Twitter’s penalty box — again.

On Tuesday morning, Trump posted a tweet that said, “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!”

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Twitter later in the day applied a warning on Trump’s tweet, saying that it represented a “threat of harm” against an identifiable group and violated its policy against abusive behavior.

The president’s post referenced protesters in the nation’s capital who on Monday had declared a “Black House Autonomous Zone” near the White House in front of St. John’s Church, before police cleared the area. The D.C. protesters had unsuccessfully attempted to pull down a statue of President Andrew Jackson. “Autonomous Zone” is a reference to the Seattle neighborhood that protesters have called the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” Twitter’s warning label on the Trump tweet reads.

It’s the second time Twitter hid a tweet by Trump in less than a month for violating its policies. On May 29, the social network hid Trump’s post — and applied a warning in front of it — in which he called Minneapolis demonstrators “THUGS” and said about the unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” In that case, Twitter said the tweet ran afoul of its policy banning the glorification of violence.

With Trump’s tweet hidden behind the warning, it cannot be directly retweeted (it may be retweeted with a comment), liked or commented on. While the warning label shows up on Twitter itself, it does appear in versions of the tweet that are embedded in another site.

For political figures like Trump, Twitter’s policy is to leave in place tweets that would be violations for regular users in cases which the company considers them to be in the “public interest.” In June 2019, Twitter announced a policy under which tweets by political figures that violate its regular policies would be displayed with a warning notice in front of tweets.

In the past few weeks, Trump’s social-media behavior increasingly has tested the bounds of what Twitter and Facebook say they disallow.

Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg have faced a backlash — both inside and outside the company — for not taking any action against Trump’s “looting and shooting” comments posted on Facebook and Instagram. Trump cross-posted the same “serious force” threat Tuesday on Facebook, where it remains without any disclaimer.

Facebook is now the target of a growing advertising boycott for the month of July protesting the social giant’s inaction on the Trump comment and other content moderation policies. The Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP have encouraged the ad boycott via the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.

Meanwhile, Facebook last week removed dozens of Trump 2020 campaign ads with Nazi symbols for violating its policy banning “organized hate.” The inverted red triangle in the Trump ads was a Nazi symbol designating political prisoners in World War II concentration camps.

Trump, irate after Twitter added fact-checking labels to his inaccurate tweets about mail-in voting, issued an executive order May 28 aiming to remove legal-liability shields social networks have under current U.S. law if they “censor” speech. The president has been sued over the order by a tech policy group that said it was unconstitutional.

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