Twitter Is OK With A Pro-Trump Militia's Tweets About A "Full-Blown 'Hot' Civil War"
When is promoting violent extremism not promoting violent extremism? When Twitter says so.
A tweet warning of a second American civil war written by a far-right militia with almost 24,000 followers doesn't violate Twitter's terms of service.
On Sunday night, President Donald Trump tweeted a thread quoting statements made by Pastor Robert Jeffress on Fox News that if Trump were impeached and removed from office, a civil war would break out.
The Twitter account belonging to the Oath Keepers, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as "one of the largest radical antigovernment groups in the US today," quote-tweeted the president and added, "This whole thread is important to read. The term 'civil war' is increasingly on people’s tongue. And not just 'cold civil war' — full-blown 'hot' civil war. Fact is patriots consider the left to be domestic enemies of the Constitution bent on the destruction of the Republic..."
Twitter told BuzzFeed News it would not provide a comment on whether tweets that call for civil war violate its terms of service. But BuzzFeed News confirmed Monday that the platform did not intend to remove the tweet or take policy action regarding the organization's account.
In June, Twitter formalized a process that it had been operating under for years. Politicians who violated its terms of service wouldn't be punished and its content would remain on the site if it met a standard of "public interest." If a politician's content didn't meet its criteria for newsworthiness, their tweets would remain up, but quarantined behind a disclaimer.
Trump, as the president of the United States, by definition qualifies under a public interest exemption. A militia tweeting in agreement would not — on the face of it — be protected under the same standard.
According to Twitter's current rules and policies, content that promotes violence, terrorism, or violent extremism is not allowed. "You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people," the Twitter terms of service reads. "You may not threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism."
With Twitter's decision today, it appears that a militia group tweeting about a "full-blown 'hot' civil war" does not qualify as promoting violent extremism.
The Oath Keepers was founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, a former paratrooper and former staffer for Republican Rep. Ron Paul. Although the organization claims to be a nonpartisan group of former military and police who have taken an oath to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic," the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center classify them as a heavily armed extremist group.
During the 2014 and 2015 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, members of the militia roamed the streets with .50-caliber Bushmaster rifles. In June, during a Republican walkout over climate change legislation, the state Senate had to be shut down due to a "possible militia threat" after Oath Keepers members showed up to protest.
The Oath Keepers did not respond to a request for comment, though the group's Twitter account remained active as people accused it of committing treason, and said they were reporting it to Twitter's safety team.
"Trump isn’t threatening a civil war, and neither am I," the account tweeted. "But the left is risking one. Just a fact."