Twitter’s new warning labels take definitive action against the problematic tweets of world leaders and political figures.  

Until recently Twitter’s complicity in world leaders like Trump routinely breaking their community guidelines was blatantly obvious, ignoring their problematic and offensive account activity, yet punishing ordinary citizens for using the exact same language.

After years of criticism, the tech giant is finally addressing concerns of politicians using their power to repeatedly undermine authority by limiting the audience of problematic tweets. The site’s bold move in taking a stand against world leaders routinely violating their community guidelines sends the message that these political figures are no longer above the law and that their actions have consequences.

The social media site is at long last taking steps to address public figures who use the public sphere to incite violence and general harassment targeted towards political opponents. The metaphorical gloves have finally come off with their long-awaited stand against these problematic political figures.

Twitter is implementing a labeling system that puts a warning label on tweets from politicians and world leaders that the site deems a violation of their community guidelines. The two-pronged initiative seeks to educate viewers on the nature of the content, while also preventing the message of the tweet to spread further than the base following of the politician or world leader responsible for the tweet

A fine line between censorship and maintaining freedom of speech

The new system is a compromise between discouraging harassment and incitement of violence, while also maintaining users right to free speech. The tweets deemed offensive under  the site’s guidelines will not be taken down entirely, instead placing a warning label that will make the content more difficult to see and reduce its exposure. In order to avoid contradicting their own rules while also avoiding the infringement of free speech which is one of the cornerstones of their business model, Twitter’s label system holds corrupt leaders of state and politicians accountable while also negating their toxic presence on the site. 

The not-quite censorship approach allows them to continue to promote free speech on their platform, while also reducing the digital impact of their hateful rhetoric. In limiting the visibility of certain user’s tweets, Twitter is controlling what the public sees and controlling the narrative through their labels. The right to free speech is non- negotiable; however, when the right is grossly misused to the point of inciting violence or harassment as Twitter has shown, there are ways to limit their speech without completely taking away the constitutional right.

In order to balance regulating the companies’ rules, while also respecting user’s constitutional rights, the system must be completely unbiased and impartial, which is almost impossible for anyone to accomplish when it comes to politics. The fact that the tweets are still technically available albeit hidden behind a filter, is a testament to the site’s dedication to maintaining users right to free speech. The muting of tweets that are considered a violation of Twitters’ rules can be seen as soft censorship, it’s not quite removed but it is now hidden behind a warning label that now requires an extra step to read. 

The new system aims to reduce the impact of problematic tweets

The elimination of labeled tweets from Twitter’s algorithm and search bar creates a ghost version of redacted tweets, they’re still there just harder to find. In hiding the tweets, the new system is muffling the tweets of political figures they find harmful to the environment. While their method of reducing the visibility of tweets is questionable, it does serve a higher purpose in eliminating harassing or violent messages or sentiments from the general population    

The new measures combatting harassment and incitement of violence will be effective in that, instead of breaching free speech by simply taking down the tweets, the initiative limits the exposure and provides a disclosure of the contents to users. The lack of attention due to the decreased visibility of the tweets redacted by Twitter creates a more aware and informed situation for other users, the added disclaimer providing an additional layer of context to readers. The politicians still get to tweet their offensive and problematic thoughts, but nobody is reading them; it’s a win-win situation. 

What this means for the Trump Administration 

The less of a presence Trump’s tweets have in the Twitter-sphere of influence the better, the world is already a violent and hateful place enough as it is.  In the event of his tweets receiving a warning label due them violating Twitter’s community standards, his tweets will reach a smaller audience resulting in a significant decrease in his influence.  The use of warning labels as an effort to keep track of violent world leaders and their opinions serves as a way for the general public to learn the truth while also having the choice to see the tweet for themselves. Trump’s actions are inexcusable and his hateful and violent rhetoric under the warning label system will be treated accordingly.

Amanda Parisse

Amanda Parisse is Generation Z Voice at the Pavlovic Today. She is studying Communications with an interest in psychology, at Goucher College in Towson Maryland. Her specific interests include civil...