Twitter says it made a mistake defending Trump's anti-Muslim retweets -- but says the videos are still OK

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesU.S. President Donald Trump stands during a news conference announcing Alexander Acosta as the new Labour Secretary nominee in the East Room at the White House on February 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.
  • Twitter is retracting its reason for why it allowed anti-Muslim videos shared by Donald Trump – but is leaving them up anyway.
  • The US president retweeted videos posted by a British far-right extremist, to universal outrage in Britain.
  • Twitter now says that the videos don’t violated its rules after all.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump caused a firestorm of condemnation on both sides of the Atlantic when he retweeted a series of anti-Muslim videos originally shared on Twitter by a far-right British extremist.

The videos purport to show violence by Muslims, but at least one of the videos has been shown to be inaccurate and the others appear designed to be inflammatory by omitting crucial context.

Twitter on Friday retracted the initial explanation it gave for why the controversial videos were allowed to remain on the site – but the company insisted that the videos are fine anyway and do not cross the bounds of what it considers permissible.

Originally, the social network had said that the tweets violated its rules, but it had made an active decision to allow them anyway because of their newsworthiness. “To help ensure people have an opportunity to see every side of an issue, there may be the rare occasion when we allow controversial content or behaviour which may otherwise violate our rules to remain on our service because we believe there is a legitimate public interest in its availability,” a spokesperson said at the time.

“Each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis and ultimately decided upon by a cross-functional team.”

But there seems to have been some confusion at Twitter. The company has now retracted that explanation and said that the videos don’t violate its rules after all – sparking concern over the company’s application of its rules given its well-documented harassment problem.

“To clarify: these videos are not being kept up because they are newsworthy or for public interest. Rather, these videos are permitted on Twitter based on our current media policy,” the company’s official Safety account tweeted.

CEO Jack Dorsey also chimed in, adding: “We mistakenly pointed to the wrong reason we didn’t take action on the videos from earlier this week. We’re still looking critically at all of our current policies, and appreciate all the feedback.”

The videos were already shared by Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of far-right British group Britain First. Fransen has previously been found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after shouting at a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, and she was recently been charged with inciting religious hatred.

She also remains verified on Twitter, despite the social network’s recen move to deverify extremist and far-right users.

There have been calls throughout Donald Trump’s presidency for Twitter to ban his account completely in light of frequent tweets that appear to violate Twitter’s policies banning abuse and harassment on its service. Some critics fear that Trump’s erratic tweets could even spark a major diplomatic crisis or worse. But the social network has so far refused to take action.

Joshua Topolsky, founder of tech news site The Outline, challenged Dorsey in the wake of the rule confusion, asking: “Jack do you think the reason is because you desperately need Trump to keep using Twitter so he gets to do whatever he wants?”

The CEO wrote back tersely: “No, I don’t.”

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