Twitter is reminding users that wishing the death of another person still violates the rules. This after Trump tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s been quite the story circulating on the news. After negligently helping to cause more than 200,000 deaths in the US via COVID-19, impeached US president Donald Trump, himself, tests positive for COVID-19.
Reaction, as you can imagine, has been wide ranging. Some became nervous because of what it would mean for the stability of the country if the leader were to die. Others point out the irony of how Trump questioned other political opponents personal health and now we have a situation where he is in hospital due to COVID-19. Some have felt that this is actually karma finally catching up to the president. For some right wing extremists, they are still holding on to the false story that COVID-19 is still a myth – even going so far as to say the allegedly mythical disease was somehow planted on Trump even though they believe it doesn’t exist.
Of course, there are some opinions that social media is saying violates the rules. With the Trump caused divisiveness throughout the country, some have taken to hoping that COVID-19 would prove fatal for the president. Posting that type of opinion – wishing that COVID-19 will kill the president – violates the rules. That’s according to Twitter as they react to this latest big news story. From The Guardian:
Twitter has said that tweets wishing for Donald Trump’s death in the wake of the president’s diagnosis with Covid-19 violate its policies and could result in suspension.
As Trump made his way to Walter Reed medical center for treatment on Friday, many people on Twitter, including his opponent Joe Biden, wished him a speedy recovery. However many others did the opposite, saying they hope he dies from the virus, which has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States under his leadership while he repeatedly downplayed the severity of the disease.
The social media platform confirmed in a tweet Friday that doing so violates Twitter’s “Abusive Behavior policy”, which prohibits tweets “wishing or hoping serious harm on a person or group of people”.
“Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone are not allowed and will need to be removed,” the company said in a tweet. A spokesman told the Guardian this policy has been in place since April and applies to all users, not just Trump.
The announcement came as a surprise to many Twitter users, especially people in marginalized communities who say they frequently experience abuse on the platform. Evan Greer said that as a trans woman and the primary spokesperson for the digital rights organization Fight For the Future, she receives death threats on a “weekly, sometimes daily basis”.
“The decision to suddenly enforce this policy underscores that centralizing content moderation decisions with Big Tech monopolies will always protect the powerful and silence the marginalized,” she said.
If people could be suspended for simply hoping someone else dies, then the latter perspective is consistent with what we’ve been seeing in general. Last month, when a GOP lawmaker issued a death threat on Facebook, Facebook simply deleted the post. No action, to our knowledge, was further taken. If platforms like Facebook and Twitter are suspending accounts for hoping or even issuing death threats, then it seems that lawmakers can flout the rules more openly then average users.
For social media, however, being wary of users hoping for ill for the president might be short lived. Reports are surfacing that the president has returned to the White House. Those reports have indicated that Trump is already violating general health guidelines by removing his face mask and telling people to not be afraid of COVID-19.
So, it is certainly possible that this situation with social media might be one of the more short lived episodes. Still, it does have some people asking whether or not the rules apply evenly to everyone.