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Twitter stands by Trump amid calls to terminate his account

The social media service has been under growing pressure since a whistleblower complaint emerged in September that Trump sought to enlist a foreign power to tarnish a rival for his own political gain. Since then, the House has initiated a formal impeachment inquiry against the president, prompting Trump to tweet a string of messages that some have called threatening and bullying.

In one instance, the president said on Twitter that the unnamed whistleblower might be a spy. He also quoted a Fox News guest who said impeachment could lead to chaos akin to a civil war and referred to the impeachment proceedings as a “coup” intended to strip Americans of their rights. He also called for the arrest of Californian Congressman Adam Schiff, a Democrat closely involved in the impeachment process, for treason.

The tweets have raised questions for Twitter. Jake Tapper, a CNN news anchor, said the tweets needed to come with a parental advisory. And Democratic Senator Kamala Harris, who is running to be the Democratic presidential nominee, called on Twitter earlier this month to suspend Trump’s account. In a letter to Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, Harris said the president’s tweets were “blatant threats” that clearly violated Twitter’s policies.

“We need a civil society, not a civil war,” she wrote.

Twitter responded to Harris on Tuesday with a letter summarising its blog post, a spokeswoman said. A spokesman for Harris’ campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Threatening language

Trump’s posts have regularly caused issues for Twitter. The president has long used the service as a megaphone to speak directly to the public, sometimes using threatening language, including when he insinuated last year that he might start a nuclear war against North Korea.

The San Francisco company has faced questions about why it allows Trump to keep a Twitter account at all because it does not allow bullying on its site. In 2017, a rogue Twitter worker deleted Trump’s account, which was restored in about 10 minutes.

In June, Twitter said it planned to roll out a feature to hide abusive tweets from world leaders behind warning labels, rather than scrubbing them from the platform, because the messages are newsworthy. That would strike a balance between making information available to the public and enforcing its policies against violence and abuse, the company said. The feature has yet to be used against any world leader’s account, including Trump’s.

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“There are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules,” Twitter said at the time.

Trump has argued that Twitter and other social media services are biased against conservative figures like himself and are preventing their posts from reaching broad audiences. The Trump administration has threatened to take action against social media companies for censorship, and any action Twitter takes against Trump’s account is likely to be met with backlash.

The New York Times

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