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Trump row with Twitter grows as it 'hides' gun violence remark

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President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images

President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

President Donald Trump. Photo: Getty Images

US president Donald Trump's feud with Twitter has escalated dramatically after the company decided one of his tweets about the Minneapolis protests was "glorifying violence" and hid it from immediate view.

As scenes of angry demonstrations played out on news channels, the US president tweeted at nearly 1am yesterday calling the protesters "thugs".

"Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts," Mr Trump said, in a comment interpreted by some as a warning that police could open fire. But the tweet was covered from view by a message from Twitter which explained its contents "violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence".

It could be read, but only after clicking another link. It was the first time the social media company has initially stopped users reading a tweet sent by Mr Trump.

The exchange escalated a row which started after Twitter added "fact check" labels to two of the president's tweets about postal ballots, which he said were open to fraud. Mr Trump reacted with anger and on Thursday signed an executive order aimed at removing a "liability shield" which protects social media companies from lawsuits.

The US president argued Twitter showed "political activism" in adding the labels.

Part of the 1996 law states that internet service providers should not be seen as the "publisher" of content posted by users and is the bedrock of unfettered speech online.

The latest escalation began as demonstrators angry at the death of George Floyd, and police violence, set fire to a police station in Minneapolis. Mr Trump criticised the protesters.

He tweeted at 12.53am: "I can't stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right....

Mr Trump then added: "... These THUGS are dishonouring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!" It was the second tweet that Twitter took action against.

A statement by the company said: "This tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today."

It did not remove the message entirely, saying it was "important" the public could still read it. The White House's official Twitter account shared the controversial tweet. It, too, then had the message sanctioned by Twitter.

Some commentators noted that Mr Trump's "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" comment echoed a 1967 remark from Walter E Headley, the Miami police chief whose heavy-handed crime fighting in the city's black neighbourhoods gained nationwide attention in the late Sixties.

It was not clear whether Mr Trump was aware of Mr Headley's comments, as the White House insisted his latest tweet had not glorified the violence.

Irish Independent