- A Twitter user recently started an account, @SuspendThePres, where he tweets word for word what President Donald Trump posts in an “experiment” to see how long it would take Twitter to suspend his account.
- After three days, Twitter said @SuspendThePres violated policies by “glorifying violence,” temporarily suspending its posting privileges and asking that the offending tweet be deleted.
- The tweet in question – containing the words “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” – was posted on Trump’s account May 29.
- Twitter did not take down the tweet but did label it as “glorifying violence.”
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A Twitter user recently launched an experiment to see what action the platform would take if he started posting Donald Trump’s controversial tweets word for word. It took only three days for Twitter to notice and suspend the user.
The account, @SuspendThePres, launched May 29 and started to post tweets identical to those sent on Trump’s Twitter. The premise was simple, according to Bizarre Lazar, the Twitter user behind the account: see how long it would take Twitter to take action against him for violating platform policies.
It took just three days for Twitter to flag one of the tweets from @SuspendThePres for violating its terms of service. Twitter temporarily suspended the account and forced the user to delete the offending tweet. The tweet in question mimicked Trump’s tweet in which he refers to protesters as “thugs” and says “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Twitter didn’t completely ignore Trump’s tweet. It gave the post a warning label for “glorifying violence” against police-brutality protesters. While Twitter gave Trump a slap on the wrist, @SuspendThePres received a 12-hour suspension for the same tweet, which demonstrated the discrepancies in how the platform’s policies are applied to politicians and high-profile figures versus average users.
“My intention was to see if the things the president was saying, coming from a civilian, would be flagged,” Bizarre Lazar told Business Insider. “Really I wanted to simply see if Twitter would play favorites on speech and their terms.”
The president’s active Twitter presence – and tendency to use it to make official announcements and launch attacks against opponents – has put the platform under increased scrutiny. Twitter has been forced to emphasize and clarify its policies around tweets from government officials and taken the stance that it won’t take action against tweets that go against the policies in the name of “public interest.”
Twitter took unprecedented action against Trump’s account just last month when it fact-checked two of his tweets containing false claims about voting by mail. The move almost immediately prompted Trump to issue an executive order targeting Section 230, a statute that allows social-media companies to regulate the content on their platforms and protects them from being liable for what users post.
Trump’s executive order is what prompted Bizarre Lazar to start his @SuspendThePres experiment, he said. It took three days for Twitter to flag the mimicking tweet from @SuspendThePres. According to a screenshot Bizarre Lazar shared online, Twitter required that the offending tweet be removed and implemented restrictions on the account for a 12-hour period.
Experiment Update – Well it finally happened. Took longer than expected. 12 hour suspension and had to delete the offending tweet. Here’s the screenshots @suspendthepres. Will post to the account when suspension is lifted. pic.twitter.com/wvKV9HDKBn
— Bizarre Lazar (@BizarreLazar) June 1, 2020
Now @SuspendThePres is back online without any restrictions. A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement that it was “misleading” to classify its action against the account as a “suspension” and emphasized that the account is now active.
Since the temporary suspension, Bizarre Lazar has continued posting Trump’s tweets verbatim from @SuspendThePres.
“A lot of people’s opinions are split on Twitters decision. I think Twitter is locked in a very tough position,” Bizarre Lazar said. “Either way I’m pretty glad it isn’t a decision I have to make. I’m bald enough already.”