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Donald Trump coronavirus statement, Twitter
courtesy of Twitter/@realDonaldTrump

Tweets hoping Trump dies from COVID break Twitter rules, the platform says

Many users have called the company hypocritical, since it hasn’t provided similar protections for people in marginalised communities

In case you missed it, Donald Trump recently tested positive for COVID-19, and was flown to Walter Reed medical center for treatment on Friday. Unsurprisingly – given that the president has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, even as the death rate passed 200,000 in the US – not everyone has been willing to express their sympathies over social media.

In a recent statement, Twitter has addressed this fact, saying that tweets hoping or wishing for Trump’s death from the virus violate the platform’s guidelines and “will need to be removed”.

Referring to its existing policy on abusive behaviour – which addresses “wishing or hoping serious harm on a person or group of people” –  the social media company says that the tweets won’t necessarily mean automatic suspension, but that a request to remove the content in question could come alongside having your account put into “read-only mode” for an unspecified period of time.

Twitter also clarifies in an October 3 statement that the rule applies to everyone, not just those wishing harm on Trump. “Tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against *anyone* are not allowed,” the platform said.

However, many Twitter users have pointed out that this doesn’t seem to apply to many people in marginalised communities, who face such harassment from other users on a daily basis, with little to no repercussions.

Evan Greer, a transgender activist and spokesperson for the digital rights organization Fight For the Future, told the The Guardian that she receives death threats on a “weekly, sometimes daily basis”. She added: “The decision to suddenly enforce this policy underscores that centralising content moderation decisions with Big Tech monopolies will always protect the powerful and silence the marginalised.”

As Motherboard points out, Facebook’s guidelines on bullying and harassment differ from Twitter’s in that they “distinguish between public figures and private individuals”. This means that it’s probably OK to say what you want about Trump’s coronavirus recovery on Facebook, as long as you don’t tag him in the post or directly expose him to “calls for death, serious disease, epidemic disease, or disability”.

Comments wishing for Trump’s death on his Facebook posts or his page, as well as content tagging him, will be removed, a spokesperson has confirmed.