A Twitter official has caused shock this week over the media giants absurd double standards concerning tweets from world leaders.
Ayatollah Khamenei has called for the literal genocide of Israel and the Jewish people and has not been restricted in any way by Twitter. President Trump, on the other hand, made a tweet regarding law and order against violent riots and was restricted by Twitter for “inciting violence”.
The argument against this decision by Twitter is not to say that any tweet is correct or that Twitter should limit either tweet, but simply that it is unacceptable for the company to apply this double standard. It fuels the belief by some that social media platforms are purposely hindering the reach of right-wing politicians and allowing left-wing politicians to have free reign.
This is especially apparent when the leader of a free country is limited for a tweet that could be interpreted in a number of ways whilst the leader of a brutal dictatorship, whose government funds terrorism against Israel and the Jewish people, calls for actual genocide against Israel and the Jewish people. If that is not inciting violence, then what is?
Twitter’s explanation, to the audible shock of Israeli politicians present, was that Khamenei’s calls for genocide were mere “foreign policy sabre-rattling”, whilst Trump’s tweet regarding the violent riots in America following George Floyd’s death “incited violence”.
“We have an approach toward leaders that says that direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy sabre-rattling on military-economic issues are generally not in violation of our rules,” Ylwa Pettersson, Twitter’s head policy for the Nordic countries and Israel, told the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, via video-conference.
I kid you not! At Knesset hearing on Antisemitism, @Twitter rep tells me they flag @realDonaldTrump because it serves ‘public conversation’, but not Iran's @khamenei_ir call for GENOCIDE, which passes for acceptable 'commentary on political issues of the day'. cc. @CotlerWunsh pic.twitter.com/AXwjkrvlql
— Arsen Ostrovsky (@Ostrov_A) July 29, 2020
She was responding to a question by pro-Israel activist Arsen Ostrovsky, who had asked why Twitter attached a special label to a recent tweet by US President Donald Trump noting that it violated the company’s rules, while the Iranian leaders’ many tweets about his wish for Israel to be destroyed are left untouched.
“I just want to fine-tune [Ostrovsky’s] question: Calling for genocide on Twitter is okay, but commenting on the political situation in certain countries is not okay?” asked MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh, who was leading the discussion.
“If a world leader violates our rules but there is a clear interest in keeping that up on the service we may place it behind a notice that provides some more context about the violation and allows people to click through if they wish to see that type of content,” Pettersson replied.
“That’s what happened for the Trump tweet: that tweet was violating our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line of that tweet and the risk that it could possibly inspire harm and similar actions.”
Trump’s May 29 tweet spoke about how violent riots were dishonouring to the memory of George Floyd and called for an end to violent riots, ended with the words: “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
In addition to the warning label, Twitter disabled the public’s ability to “like” the post, but decided not to remove it “so the citizens can see what their political figures are commenting [on] and hold them accountable for it online,” said Pettersson, who spoke to the Knesset meeting via Zoom.
“Wow. Twitter just admitted that tweets calling for genocide against Jews by Iranian leaders DON’T violate its policy!”, Cotler-Wunsh tweeted after the session ended. “This is a double standard. This is antisemitism.”
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