Twitter is paralysed by Trump’s tweeting


Once again, Twitter finds itself between a rock and a far-right place.

Donald Trump’s retweeting of Britain First’s Jayda Fransen on Wednesday was a truly shocking moment. The British Prime Minister said it was “wrong”. It contributed, as one US news site put it, to Trump’s “darkest day” as President.

Yet as Wednesday rolled into Thursday, the leader of the free world retweeting a far-right organisation became just another frightful part of what we apparently refer to as the “new normal”.

Now perhaps the most surprising element of this spectacle isn’t that the President amplified the tweets of a woman who has been fined for hate speech – but that those tweets are still there.

Recently Twitter has pledged to crack down on hate speech, and, more importantly, promised to be more transparent about how it goes about moderating its increasingly volatile space.

It said those who engaged in hateful behaviour, online and offline, would see their “verified” status removed, acknowledging that some saw the bright blue tick as badge of honour for Twitter users.

On Thursday, Twitter said it wouldn’t take any action against the tweets – though it did tag the material as “sensitive”.

Despite its new transparency pledge, it refused to offer an explanation, or give any indication – even off the record – as to its reasoning for keeping the tweets online.

Ms Fransen, Britain First’s deputy leader, remains on the platform – verified with a blue tick – despite “offline” behaviour that includes a fine of almost £2,000 for religiously-aggravated harassment of a stranger in the street. Ms Fransen admitted to shouting abuse at the Muslim woman, who was with her children.

When asked about Ms Fransen’s tweets and status, a Twitter spokeswoman sent the BBC the following statement.

“To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behaviour which may otherwise violate our Rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability.”


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