WASHINGTON: Twitter hid a tweet from President Donald Trump on Friday (May 29), accusing him of breaking its rules by "glorifying violence" in a message that said looters at protests in Minneapolis would be shot.
Twitter's decision to step in, at a time of racially charged civil unrest in cities across the United States, escalates a feud between Trump and tech companies.
It came just hours after Trump signed an executive order threatening Silicon Valley social media firms with new regulations over free speech.
"...These THUGS are dishonoring 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!" Trump's tweet read.
Trump's message can now be seen only after clicking on a notice which says: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."
Trump responded with another tweet about six hours later, saying: "Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated." He also accused Twitter of targeting him, Republicans and other conservatives for censorship.
The US president has said that he would introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken Section 230.
He signed an executive order on Thursday afternoon directing federal agencies to clarify the scope of Section 230, which protects Internet companies from liability for illegal content posted by users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.
Trump had attacked Twitter for tagging tweets of his this week about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting. Twitter added a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.
READ: Angry US protests, looting over police killing of black man in Minneapolis
A Twitter spokesperson said CEO Jack Dorsey had been informed of the decision to tag Trump's tweet before the label was applied.The decision was based on a policy introduced in June last year, which the company said it had applied previously, pointing to a tweet by a Brazilian cabinet member in April this year.
Trump issued his tweet after days of unrest in Minneapolis, where peaceful rallies gave way to a third night of arson, looting and vandalism as protesters vented their rage over the death of Floyd, a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck.
Trump has condemned the killing of Floyd and promised justice.
Four police officers involved in Floyd's death have been fired and the FBI is investigating.
The incident was one of several killings of black people in the United States in recent months that has provoked outrage. The Minneapolis night sky was lit up with flame from a police precinct that had been torched overnight.
Sympathy protests also took place in other US cities. In Louisville, Kentucky, police said seven people were shot and at least one was in critical condition.
Protesters there vented rage over another police killing, of Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot during a raid in her apartment in March. Louisville's mayor has asked the FBI to review a police investigation into her death.
In a thread, Twitter said it had taken its action over the Trump tweet "in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts".
People will still "be able to retweet with comment, but will not be able to like, reply or retweet it".
Twitter's decision to intervene in Trump's messages is a contrast with Facebook, whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News in an interview earlier this week: "I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online."
The platform exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking program.
Facebook did not remove President Trump's same post from its site, where it had 34,000 shares. A company spokesperson declined to comment on whether the post violated its rules about content that incites or threatens violence.
The death of Floyd has reignited protests that have flared up repeatedly in recent years over killings of black people. In the video circulated this week, Floyd can be heard gasping "I can't breathe" while an officer knelt on his neck, a phrase also spoken by Eric Garner, whose death while held in a police chokehold in New York in 2014 prompted nationwide outrage.
Demonstrators say the authorities have responded harshly to protests by African Americans, comparing that to the peaceful response to protests by mostly white, sometimes armed Trump supporters in recent weeks, calling for the lifting of lockdowns meant to halt the spread of the coronavirus.