Trump calls protesters ‘thugs’ after George Floyd death in police custody

Trump launches new attack on Twitter and Section 230 after site hides his George Floyd tweet

President again accuses firm of ‘targeting’ conservatives

Jon Sharman
Friday 29 May 2020 13:15

Donald Trump has lashed out at Twitter after it limited access to one of his tweets.

The social media firm said the post, in which Mr Trump suggested he would have people rioting in the wake of George Floyd’s death shot, had violated its rules on glorifying violence.

Mr Floyd died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Protests sparked by the release of bodycam footage showing his violent arrest have morphed into riots, leading Mr Trump to threaten to send in the National Guard.

“Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party. They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!” Mr Trump tweeted on Friday after learning he had been censured.

The tweet that Jack Dorsey’s company decided had finally crossed the line saw the US president reference a civil-rights-era police chief who threatened to use lethal force against rioters in 1967. On Thursday night it reduced the ability of other users to interact with the post, but allowed it to remain live.

Mr Trump had tweeted: “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!”

Twitter released a statement after it hid the message, saying: “This tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.

“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.”

It was the second high-profile intervention aimed at Mr Trump in recent days. On Wednesday Twitter attached a fact-checking notice to a tweet in which he had claimed, without evidence, that expanding mail-in voting could lead to widespread fraud – prompting a hail of vitriol from the Oval Office.

The fact-check notice also spurred the release of an executive order that could allow federal officials to crack down on Facebook, Twitter and other firms over the way they police content.

Mr Trump’s order could set the stage for US federal entities to roll back a legal safeguard for tech companies known as Section 230, which prevents them from being held legally responsible for the content they allow on their sites.

However, Twitter’s newly assertive approach to presidential falsehoods and abuse does not extend to Mr Trump’s promotion of a conspiracy that accuses Joe Scarborough, a television presenter, of having murdered a colleague some two decades ago.

The president has pushed baseless claims that Lori Klausutis, a member of Mr Scarborough’s staff when he was in Congress, did not die accidentally. Twitter and Mr Dorsey have refused to delete the posts despite a searing letter sent by Klausutis’ widower asked them to do so.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong him – the memory of my dead wife – and perverted it for perceived political gain,” Timothy Klausutis wrote to Mr Dorsey.

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