President Trump has coronavirus, a disease that has killed more than 205,000 people in the United States on his watch. Roughly half the country widely reviles him because of his often negligent and sometimes cruel pandemic policies, social justice, and immigration, among others. Some unknowable percentage of those people want him to die from the disease, and more than a handful of them have already explicitly said they hope the President dies from coronavirus on Twitter.
Twitter told Motherboard that users are not allowed to hope for Trump’s death on the platform openly and that tweets that do so “will have to be removed” and that they may have their accounts put into a “read-only” mode. Twitter referred to an “abusive behavior” rule that’s been on the books since April.
“Content that wishes, hopes or expresses a desire for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against an individual is against our rules,” Twitter said in a statement. This rule will apply to people who wish death on Trump, the single most potent person globally.
As Motherboard has previously reported, Facebook has different speech rules that are focused on celebrities and public figures. Facebook says it “distinguish[es] between public figures and private individuals because we want to allow discussion, which often includes critical commentary of people who are featured in the news or who have a large public audience. For public figures, we remove severe attacks as well as certain attacks where the public figure is directly tagged in the post or comment.” What this means is that it’s OK to post on Facebook that you hope Trump dies, so long as you do not tag him in the post or “purposefully expose” him to “calls for death, serious disease, epidemic disease, or disability.”
Twitter makes no such distinction between public and private figures.
When Motherboard asked how tightly Twitter will enforce this policy about Trump, it said that it “won’t take enforcement action on every Tweet. We’re prioritizing the removal of content when it has a clear call to action that could potentially cause real-world harm.” It is not clear whether Twitter believes that hoping for the President’s death can lead him to die, or where the line is.