Updated Jun 23, 2020 - Technology

Twitter flags Trump tweet for violating rules on abusive behavior

illustration of President Trump opening his mouth and the Twitter bird logo flies out
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter on Monday opted not to take down or flag a tweet from President Trump that baselessly tied mail-in ballots to voter fraud and foreign election interference. On Tuesday, meanwhile, the platform flagged a Trump tweet threatening "serious force" against protesters seeking to set up an "autonomous zone" in Washington for violating its rules on abusive behavior.

The big picture: President Trump continues to test tech platforms' willingness to crack down on abuse and misinformation he spreads on his social media accounts, a dynamic that will likely intensify as the election approaches and he seeks to raise doubts about potentially unfavorable outcomes.

Driving the news: Trump tweeted on Tuesday, "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!"

  • The tweet was flagged and replaced with a notice that gave users the option to view the content because Twitter determined "it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."
  • Users are not permitted to share the tweet.
Trump tweet flagged
Screenshot via Twitter

On Monday, Trump railed against mail-in voting in a series of tweets claiming that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others" and maintaining, "Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history."

  • It's unclear what inspired Trump's claim about foreign countries printing ballots, and there has never been any link established between mail-in voting and widespread voter fraud (or indeed any record of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. at all).
  • Trump himself has repeatedly voted by mail in the last three years.

Twitter declined to flag the tweets as election-related misinformation, as it had an earlier series of Trump tweets, because Monday's postings didn't level any specific accusations about election officials' processes on handling voting or mail-in ballots, a company spokesperson told Axios.

  • Twitter did create a "Moment" aggregating tweets that debunked Trump's latest claims.

Trump's posts also appeared without being flagged on Facebook, which has taken a broadly more permissive approach than Twitter to Trump's inflammatory messages.

Our thought bubble: Testing the boundaries of acceptability on social media is a win-win for Trump's grievance politics. Either platforms give him a pass and let him spread misinformation unimpeded, or they crack down on him, fueling his claims that they're trying to silence him and other conservatives.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Twitter's decision to flag another Trump tweet for abusive behavior.

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