Twitter Changes Reason to Allow Trump's Anti-Muslim Retweets

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Credit: Bloomberg News

Twitter said it allowed anti-Muslim videos that were retweeted by President Donald Trump because they didn't break rules on forbidden content, abandoning an earlier rationale that newsworthiness justified the posts.

On Thursday, a Twitter spokesperson said "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."

The response was criticized by people who said Trump's retweets violated Twitter policies since the video was inciting violence. On Friday, Twitter backtracked on its initial explanation.

"We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn't take action on the videos from earlier this week," Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted on Friday. "We're still looking critically at all of our current policies, and appreciate all the feedback."

Twitter's safety department sought to clarify by saying the videos "are not being kept up because they are newsworthy or for public interest. Rather, these videos are permitted on Twitter based on our current media policy." It didn't specify which part of the policy, however, the company is updating it soon.

The social network's content rules currently forbid videos containing "some forms of graphic violence or adult content," according to its website. A note at the top of the website says the policy will be "updated later this year to include hate symbols and hateful imagery."

The episode follows a spate of controversial decisions over information posted on Twitter. In October, the company temporarily suspended Rose McGowan's account after the actress took to the social network to name alleged sexual harassers in the entertainment industry. The company also plans to update its verification policy, after drawing intense criticism for verifying the account of Jason Kessler, who is credited with orchestrating the white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year.

Trump on Wednesday retweeted three videos that purported to show an "Islamist mob" pushing a teenager off a roof and beating him to death, a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a Muslim migrant attacking a Dutch youth on crutches. The videos had originally been posted by an activist for the far-right Britain First group. PolitiFact, a fact-checking group, concluded that the veracity of the videos was "dubious" and said the description of one of the clips wrongly attributed an attack to a Muslim migrant.

The tweets were condemned by British Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

-- Bloomberg News

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