Twitter Adds Warning to Trump’s Post on Protesters’ Attempt to Set Up DC Autonomous Zone

June 23, 2020 Updated: June 23, 2020

Twitter on Tuesday has once again placed a label on one of President Donald Trump posts for violating its policies, claiming that his statement on protestors who are attempting to set up an autonomous zone in the District of Columbia present “a threat of harm against an identifiable group.”

“We’ve placed a public interest notice on this Tweet for violating our policy against abusive behavior, specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group,” Twitter said in a statement.

The company noted that the president’s post will remain on the online platform due to its “relevance to ongoing public conversation” but will limit the ability for users to engage with the post.

“People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but not Like, Reply, or Retweet it,” the statement said.

The post in question was posted on Tuesday morning by the president who was weighing in on an attempt by protesters to set up an autonomous zone—dubbed the “Black House Autonomous Zone”—in the nation’s capital on Monday night. Demonstrators at Lafayette Park attempted to cordon off an area with barricades to mark the zone and topple a statue of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson before police officers came to disperse them.

On the same night, the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church was also vandalized with black spray-paint spelling out the letters “BHAZ”—an acronym for the so-called “Black House Autonomous Zone.”

In response to the chaos, Trump on Tuesday morning vowed to take a hard stance on those protesters, saying that “there will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President.” He added that “if they try they will be met with serious force!”

The White House did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on Twitter’s decision.

Twitter’s move on Tuesday is the latest instance by the company to add warning labels to the president’s posts. The company says that it was a normal procedure for it to use “public interest notice[s]” for posts that “violate the Twitter Rules.”

The company had previously placed warning labels on two of the president’s posts on mail-in voting. In May, Twitter hid one of Trump’s posts that warned rioters about looting, claiming that it was “glorifying violence.” Then on June 18, the company placed a “manipulated media” label on another post after the president shared a video clip from the memesmith Carpe Donktum showing a black baby running from a white baby with a chyron saying, “Breaking News: Terrified Toddler Runs From Racist Baby.”

The president and the Trump administration have repeatedly accused internet companies such as Twitter and Facebook of exceeding its role as an online platform by stifling and censoring user viewpoints that it did not agree with, in particular, conservative viewpoints. Trump has also accused Twitter of being selective in its policing on posts, saying that it ignores “lies” and “propaganda” being put out by the Chinese Communist Party or Democratic lawmakers in the United States.

“They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!” he said.

In order to protect users from unfair or deceptive content restriction practices employed by online platforms, Trump signed an executive order on May 28 directing federal agencies to develop regulations that would encourage internet companies to police content in a fairer manner lest they lose their limit liability protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 largely provides online platforms a shield from liability for content posted by their users. The immunity, however, would not apply for content that violates anti-sex trafficking or intellectual property laws.

The law allows companies to block or screen content “in good faith” if they consider it “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” The protections, however, weren’t intended to apply to services that act more like publishers than online platforms, Attorney General William Barr said in a speech in May.

The Justice Department (DOJ) has also proposed a series of legislative changes to the law that would curtail broad legal protections for online platforms in an effort to push tech companies to address illicit material while moderating content responsibly. The department said its proposals, which need to be considered by Congress, would “update the outdated immunity for online platforms” under section 230.

The attorney general said the internet and tech industry has evolved since section 230 was adopted 25 years ago. At the time, it was used to protect websites that served as bulletin boards for third-party content and to give protection to companies from liability for removing content such as child pornography or human trafficking advertising, he said.

But now, he said, section 230 has been interpreted in such a broad manner that has left online platforms “unaccountable for a variety of harms flowing from content on their platforms and with virtually unfettered discretion to censor third-party content with little transparency or accountability.”

This is “a fundamental problem,” Barr said in a recent interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” because the republic was founded on “the idea and the whole rationale was that there would be a lot of diversity of voices.” This would make it hard for  individuals to “galvanize a big faction in the United States that could dominate politically and oppress a minority.”

“And yet now we have, with the Internet and with these big concentrations of power, the ability to do just that, to quickly galvanize people’s views, because they’re only presenting one viewpoint, and they can push the public in a particular direction very quickly,” he said. “And our whole Constitution and system was based on not having that, and having a wide diversity of voices.”

Zack Stieber contributed to this report.

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