Twitter censored an early morning tweet from President Trump Friday, deeming it as “glorifying violence” after he called violent protesters reacting to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers “THUGS” and warned that looters will be shot as rioting intensified in the city.
“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!” Trump tweeted at 12:53 a.m. after protesters torched a Minneapolis police precinct that was overrun by rioters.
While the social media giant censored the president’s tweet, it was left accessible in “the public’s interest.”
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” Twitter said in its statement on the tweet.
The White House insisted in a subsequent tweet that the president was not “glorifying violence.”
“The President did not glorify violence. He clearly condemned it. @Jack and Twitter's biased, bad-faith ‘fact-checkers’ have made it clear: Twitter is a publisher, not a platform,” the White House noted in a tweet which was also flagged by Twitter as a violation of its rules.
The president’s tweet came in the wake of growing unrest across the country overnight, including the burning of a Minneapolis police precinct that was overrun by rioters.
“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right,” the president added.
Hours later after his tweet was censored, Trump accused Twitter of playing partisan politics and called for its regulation.
“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!” he said. “The President has been targeted by Twitter.”
The federal law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was created in 1996. It shields websites from liability for content created by their users and permits internet companies to moderate their sites without being on the hook legally for everything they host. The law, however, does not provide blanket protection from legal responsibility for criminal acts, like posting child pornography or violations of intellectual property.
“Regulate Twitter if they are going to start regulating free speech.’ @JudgeJeanine @foxandfriends. Well, as they have just proven conclusively, that’s what they are doing. Repeal Section 230!!!” Trump tweeted Friday morning.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order seeking to limit the protections of Section 230.
“Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ [Yoel Roth] has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets,” the president said in his speech announcing the order.
Legal experts on both the right and the left told CNN that what the president is seeking to do might be unconstitutional because it risks infringing on the First Amendment rights of private companies. It also attempts to circumvent the two other branches of government.
"(Trump) is trying to steal for himself the power of the courts and Congress to rewrite decades of settled law," said Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the architect of the legislation that the order seeks to reinterpret. "He decides what's legal based on what's in his interest."
Protests have been growing across the country since Floyd’s fatal encounter with four now-fired Minneapolis police officers, which was caught on video, and triggered violent protests in that city which have since spread to other locations, Denver, Memphis, Louisville and Los Angeles.
The approximately 10-minute video of the encounter shows a handcuffed Floyd lying face down begging for his life and crying for his mother while Officer Derek Chauvin kneels into his neck. Chauvin kneels into Floyd’s neck until he begins to bleed from his nose and becomes unresponsive. Even after Floyd becomes motionless on the ground, Chauvin continued pressing his knee into his neck for several more minutes as bystanders begged him to have mercy.
Protesters are refusing to back down until arrested have been made for Floyd’s death.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told CNN in a live interview Friday morning that he has "every expectation" authorities will press charges against the Minneapolis police officers involved in Floyd’s death.
“We are standing by and helping any way we can. But yeah, I anticipate there will be charges. I hope they're soon. But that is the prerogative of another prosecuting authority. They are trying to be careful. They are trying to make sure their case is strong and airtight,” Ellison said.