All posts in “trump”

Facebook staff reportedly interviewed in Mueller investigation

At least one Facebook employee has been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into potential Russian interference with the 2016 election, reports Wired. But don’t put on your conspiracy hats just yet.

Wired’s source indicated that the Facebook staffer was associated with the Trump campaign, which could mean just about anything. For a major spender on social media, which that campaign certainly was, it is common for Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other properties selling ads to have a liaison with the client.

Since Facebook is also up to its eyes on Russia-related inquiries, it makes perfect sense that someone acting as go-between or advisor for the company and the campaign would be interviewed as a matter of course. Certainly no wrongdoing is implied.

The Facebook staffer would be the primary source for any information relating to Trump campaign spending, including whether or not there was any knowledge of or involvement in the Russian side of things — again, not to imply anything, just to say if there’s anything to know, that person would know it.

As Facebook was more strongly targeted by Russian bots and trolls during the election than its rivals, it makes sense that it would be pulled in like this, but don’t be surprised if others have a chance to chat with the special counsel’s team as well. I’ve asked Facebook for comment.

Featured Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Twitter attempts to explain why it won’t ban Trump

Trump's tweets seem to be protected.
Trump’s tweets seem to be protected.

Image: ambar del moral/mashable

The chances of Twitter banning President Trump over his “nuclear button” tweet just plummeted to slim-to-none.

Twitter put out a statement Friday addressing the micro-blogging network’s stance on political figures tweeting: Basically, Twitter said it won’t block someone like Trump or remove their controversial tweets. The response comes a few days after Trump kicked off the new year with a barrage of incendiary tweets, including one with a North Korea-aimed threat about his massive “nuclear button.” 

Twitter says blocking a world leader “would hide important information people should be able to see and debate. It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”

The post went on to explain that tweets from world leaders are reviewed by the company, keeping context in mind. 

This sounds similar to the reasoning Twitter gave after Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda last month. That incident also spurred calls to remove Trump from Twitter for violating company policy by using hate speech and promoting violence. Trump’s account didn’t disappear.

In what seems like a veiled comment about Trump and his wildly popular Twitter account, the company assured users Friday that it works to “remain unbiased with the public interest in mind” and that “no one person’s account drives Twitter’s growth, or influences these decisions.”

Protests at Twitter headquarters earlier this week strongly urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to remove Trump from the social platform.

Now we know that’s not going to happen any time soon. f0e3 bd43%2fthumb%2f00001

Why Twitter won’t remove Trump’s nuclear war tweet

Trump’s tweet raising the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea isn’t in violation of Twitter’s guidelines, the company says, and will remain online. In the tweet, Trump boasted that his “Nuclear Button” is “much bigger” and “more powerful” than the one belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un – a combative and childish taunt that raises serious questions about Trump’s fitness for office, as well as to what extent Twitter is complicit in allowing him to publish threats of this nature to its platform.

The tweet today has around 353,000 “Likes” on Twitter – which makes it one of the most-engaged with tweets in recent days, including Trump’s year-end tweet wishing everyone – “even Fake News Media” – a Happy New Year. That tweet had neared 200,000 Likes, while another Fake News-related tweet the day prior had topped 200,000.

The Like count doesn’t necessarily indicate endorsement, of course. People tend to use the Like button as a bookmarking feature, in many cases – especially when needing to reference a notable tweet like this.

A number of users reported the tweet to Twitter, with the expectation that threatening a war one is capable of starting should violate Twitter’s revised Terms of Service, given the company’s recent crackdown on violent threats.

Twitter, in December, began enforcing new rules around violent and hateful content posted to its platform, as part of the company’s broader agenda to craft new policies aimed at reducing the amount of online abuse, hate speech, violent threats, and harassment associated with its service.

Specifically, Twitter’s rule about violent threats, reads as follows:

Twitter Rules: You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.


We want Twitter to be a place where people feel safe to freely express themselves. Thus, we will not tolerate behavior that encourages or incites violence against a specific person or group of people. We also take action against content that glorifies acts of violence in a manner that may inspire others to replicate those violent acts and cause real offline danger, or where people were targeted because of their potential membership in a protected category.

When this applies

Tweets that violate this policy contain violent threats or glorify violence.

However, Twitter responded to users who reported Trump’s tweet as a violent threat that the tweet wasn’t an issue.

Users were informed the company reviewed the case and “found that there was no violation of the Twitter Rules against abusive behavior.”

The email then offers some general guidelines about how Twitter comes to its decisions, which don’t really apply to the Trump tweet – like how tweets can sometimes appear to be abusive when viewed in isolation, but not when they’re seen as part of a larger conversation taking place, for example.

When asked for comment about its decision, Twitter pointed to the email reports it sent. It’s not offering a public statement at this time, though that could still change.

The issue is that Twitter’s Rules don’t apply to whatever Trump posts because of who he is. This, combined with another exception Twitter recently carved out for governments and military, allows Twitter to wash its hands of the matter.

For starters, there’s the “newsworthiness” of Trump’s statements. No matter what those statements are, Twitter allows his tweets to remain online because he’s the U.S. President.

This situation has come up before – in fact, it came up with regard to another Trump tweet about North Korea. Back in September 2017, North Korea’s top diplomat described President Donald Trump’s tweets about the country then as a “declaration of war.” This prompted Twitter to further explain its stance on the matter.

In a thread posted to its service, the company’s global public policy team wrote that it holds all accounts to the same rules, but also considers other factors when assessing whether tweets violate those rules.

“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a tweet is of public interest,” Twitter explained in the thread. “This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it. We need to do better on this, and will. Twitter is committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world,” the company said.

In December, Twitter further distanced itself from having to police Trump’s tweets by making military and government entities an exemption from its rules about violent threats and the promotion of violence on Twitter.

This part of Twitter’s rules states:

Exceptions will be considered for groups that have reformed or are currently engaging in a peaceful resolution process, as well as groups with representatives elected to public office through democratic elections. This policy does not apply to military or government entities.

While Twitter’s rules won’t hold Trump accountable, there are some people who will. An activist group called Resistance SF believes Twitter is to blame for giving Trump a platform. The group is planning to protest Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Wednesday because of Twitter’s refusal to ban Trump from the service.

“Trump or Jack [Dorsey, Twitter CEO] must go,” the Facebook event page for the protest reads.

The group also took credit for messages projected on Twitter’s HQ last night, one of which reads “@jack is #complicit.”  (The group says its projector rotates through messages, usually every 30 to 60 minutes).

Whether or not you personally agree with Twitter’s position here, it’s clear that Trump’s postings will cause a continuous headache for Twitter. Yet, at the same time, Trump’s tweets are helping to boost Twitter’s user numbers (and therefore its revenue) as more people tune in to watch the drama unfold on its service.

Twitter, then, is the awkward position of both benefiting from and being attacked for its decision to continue to host Trump’s account. Of course, if Twitter banned Trump – effectively taking a political (or some would say, moral) position on the matter – there would be uproar about that, too.

Twitter finally boots hate group that Trump retweeted off its platform

Yesterday Twitter said it would begin enforcing new hate speech rules to shutter accounts that promote violence against citizens to further their causes.

The same day it suspended the accounts of the far right British hate group, Britain First, along with the accounts of its leader Paul Golding, and deputy Jayda Fransen.

Fransen, whose far right anti-muslim hate group has never achieved any sniff of electoral success, was nonetheless thrust into the mainstream limelight last month after president Trump retweeted three anti-muslim videos she had shared to his 44.8M followers — earning a personal rebuke from the UK prime minister, and condemnation from MPs across the domestic political spectrum for amplifying hate speech.

For a little wider context on Fransen, last year she was found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after abusing a Muslim woman who was wearing a hijab.

Both her and Golding were also arrested in the UK earlier this week on charges relating to behavior intended to or likely to stir up hatred in Northern Ireland.

Curiously, a ‘Twitter People’ search for ‘Jayda Fransen’ which TechCrunch carried out today initially resulted in the first suggestion being @realDonaldTrump‘s account.

Some minutes later his account was no longer being algorithmically linked to Fransen — suggesting some human eyes at the company had locked onto the recommendation AI’s problem.

The three posts made by Fransen that Trump retweeted from his personal account last year also appear to now be gone from his feed — presumably as a result of the account being shut down.

Last month Twitter faced criticism for not removing the three tweets — but defended its action, telling CNN that there “may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behavior which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability”.

“Each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis and ultimately decided upon by a cross-functional team,” the spokesperson added then.

Weeks on, the Britain First “case” appears to be closed — insofar as Twitter is concerned.

However it’s a different story on Facebook where the group’s Facebook page has more than 1.9M likes — and includes a shop where Facebook users can make a donation to the hate group or pay the hate group to become a member.

On its Facebook page Britain First can also be found complaining that YouTube is now demonitizing and gating its videos behind warning notices.

Earlier this year the Google-owned platform faced an advertiser backlash when marketing was shown being displayed alongside hateful and offensive content — and said it would be taking “a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content.”

Last month YouTube also confirmed a major policy shift regarding extremist content — saying it would be broadening takedowns to expand out from videos that directly incite violence to also removing non-violent extremist content.

Although, in this instance, it does not appear that Alphabet/Google is removing Britain First videos entirely.

Rather it’s making it harder for the group to use its mainstream platform to profit from their far right fringe activities.

We asked Facebook why it continues to allow the hate group to maintain a presence on its platform — which is demonstrably being used as a route for fundraising — but Facebook declined to comment.

Instead a spokeswoman pointed us to this company blog, from Facebook’s self-styled ‘Hard Questions‘ series, on the topic of hate speech.

In the post, Facebook’s Richard Allan, VP EMEA public policy, writes [emphasis mine]: “Our current definition of hate speech is anything that directly attacks people based on what are known as their “protected characteristics” — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity, or serious disability or disease.”

Featured Image: DragojaGagiTubic / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus

Twitter changes reason for not removing anti-Muslim videos retweeted by Trump

Twitter is standing by its earlier decision to keep up a series of graphic anti-Muslim videos retweeted by President Trump earlier this week — though it’s attempting to reframe its reason for doing so.

CEO Jack Dorsey took to the site to retract an earlier statement that Twitter support had left the videos live due to their being “newsworthy for public interest,” a guideline it’s invoked numerous times when criticized about its decision to leave up presidential tweets. The site now says that, while it wasn’t wrong to keep the content up, its original justification for doing so was wrong. 

“We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn’t take action on the videos from earlier this week,” the executive explained, echoing Twitter’s official statement that, “these videos are permitted on Twitter based on our current media policy.”

Dorsey added, however that the site is, “still looking critically at all of our current policies, and appreciate all the feedback.” He pointed to recently announced plans to update site guidelines, as Twitter has come under increasing scrutiny over what it does and doesn’t pull from the site. Early last month, it posted a new version of its rules, highlighting thing like abusive behavior, adult content and graphic violence — all said, however, it’s tough to see how the Trump RTed videos aren’t covered by that last point.

On Wednesday, the President retweeted a trio of videos by far-right British politician Jayda Fraser that purported to show Muslims performing violent acts. Conservative British Prime Minister Theresa May took Trump to task, calling him “wrong” for promoting “hateful narratives.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders stood by the President once again, even as the veracity of the videos were called into question by many mainstream press outlets. “Whether it is a real video,” she told the press, “the threat is real.”

Among other things, Twitter’s new stance on the subject appears to be a response to reports proving at least one of the videos was not what it claimed to be. The company’s original explanation was met with a fair amount of pushback on social media, and this time out, things don’t appear to be going much better for the site. 

It’s yet another in a long list of missteps that have made 2017 an on-going PR disaster for Twitter. Just this week, the site apologized for accidentally pulling a New York Times account over a tweet promoting a story about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that it accidentally flagged as offensive.

Recent months have also found the service in hot water for temporarily blocking actress Rose McGowan over a tweet about Harvey Weinstein and verifying white nationalist Jason Kessler.

Featured Image: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images