Twitter said Tuesday that not even U.S. President Donald Trump is immune from being kicked off the platform if his tweets cross a line with abusive behavior.
The social media company’s rules against vitriolic tweets offer leeway for world leaders whose statements are newsworthy, but that “is not a blanket exception for the president or anyone else,” Twitter legal and policy chief Vijaya Gadde told POLITICO in an interview alongside CEO Jack Dorsey.
Trump regularly uses Twitter to heap abuse on his perceived enemies and at times raise the specter of violence, such as when he tweeted last year that if North Korean leaders continued with their rhetoric at the time, “they won’t be around much longer!” Critics say the tweets violate Twitter’s terms of service and warrant punitive action.
Dorsey, who’s due to testify before two congressional committees Wednesday about his company’s content practices, said he receives notifications on his phone for Trump’s Twitter account. But asked if he would weigh in personally to remove Trump from the platform, he declined to get into specifics.
“We have to balance it with the context that it’s in,” he said. “So my role is to ask questions and make sure we’re being impartial, and we’re upholding consistently our terms of service, including public interest.”
Trump’s Twitter threats and taunts have repeatedly prompted calls for his removal from the platform, such as when he tweeted about Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani in July, “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.” In August, Trump, in tweets, called former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman “wacky,” “deranged” and a “dog.“
Amid controversy over Trump’s tweeting back in January, Twitter posted to its corporate blog an unsigned explanation of its thinking around “world leaders” — without calling out Trump by name. It said blocking such leaders or removing their tweets “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate.” Dorsey tweeted the policy, saying “we want to share our stance.”
Dorsey is under intense pressure from both the left and right in Washington over how Twitter decides which tweets and advertisements are allowed to run on its platform. He’s in Washington to testify twice on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, first before the Senate Intelligence Committee on foreign use of social media to interfere in U.S. elections and later in the House on allegations that Twitter is biased against conservatives.
The Twitter CEO also denied a Wall Street Journal report that he personally intervened to keep far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and white supremacist Richard Spencer on the site.
“I ask questions. I don’t think I’ve ever overruled anything,” he said.