Twitter is soliciting the public’s input on whether world leaders should be governed by the same rules as other users, and wants feedback on what type of enforcement they think would be appropriate if a world leader violated the rules for engagement violates.
“Politicians and government officials are constantly evolving how they use our service, and we want our policies to remain relevant to the ever-changing nature of political discourse on Twitter and to protect the health of public conversation,” the company said in a blog post.
Twitter said it is also consulting with human rights experts, civil society organizations and academics worldwide on the matter, and their responses will be reflected in future policy reviews.
The poll is open until April 12th and in the coming days Twitter has announced that it will be releasing versions in 13 additional languages. It asks participants what action the platform should take if political candidates or elected officials publish misleading information about elections and have repeatedly violated the website’s rules.
Another question asks what Twitter should do if a senior government official from another country makes hypothetical false claims about untested COVID-19 remedies in users’ country. It is also asked how to deal with situations where officials tweet false claims about the coronavirus in their own countries.
It also covers hate speech and threats of violence by world leaders against citizens in their own country and citizens of other countries. Each hypothetical situation that Twitter raises in the survey determines whether it is the first violation of the world leader or a repeated crime.
Republican lawmakers have criticized Twitter for its content moderation guidelines in recent months. In Congressional hearings, Senators Roger Wicker, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham alleged that Twitter’s content moderation practices were unfairly silencing conservative voices on the platform.
During an October Senate Trade Committee hearing, Wicker, who was then chairman of the committee, asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey why it took the company months to flag a tweet from the Chinese Community Party spokesman for the U.S. military However, the spread of the coronavirus immediately checked a post by former President Trump stating that postal ballot papers are prone to fraud.
“Your platform allows foreign dictators to publish propaganda without restrictions, as a rule, but you routinely restrict the President of the United States,” Wicker Dorsey said during the October hearing.
Dorsey said the company has taken action against tweets from executives around the world and is considering the severity of the potential harm if posts violate the rules of engagement.
“We believe it is important that everyone hears about the world’s leading companies,” replied Dorsey Wicker. “We want to make sure we respect their right to speak and publish what they need.”
Wicker also asked Dorsey why tweets from Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khomeini calling for the destruction of Israel were not labeled or removed.
In January, two days after, Twitter permanently “because of the risk of further incitement to violence.” Facebook, which had suspended Trump’s account indefinitely, finally referred the case to its regulator in late January.
The board has powers to overturn Facebook’s decision to ban Trump from the platform and is expected to make its decision in the coming weeks.
Dorsey, along with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, will testify to the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week. Thursday’s hearing will focus on spreading misinformation and disinformation on online platforms and how the false claims regarding COVID-19 have created real public health consequences.
Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., chairman of the House’s Energy and Trade Committee, said industry self-regulation is no longer working and lawmakers need to act.
“For far too long, Big Tech has not recognized the role they have played in promoting and disseminating blatant misinformation to the online audience,” said Energy and Trade Committee Chairman, Congressman Frank Pallone Jr., last month when he called Dorsey. Zuckerberg and Pichai to testify.
“We need to start changing incentives that encourage social media companies to allow and even encourage misinformation and disinformation,” he added.