Twitter’s next dilemma: Should it suspend Trump for ‘cyberbullying’?

Twitter’s next dilemma: Should it suspend Trump for ‘cyberbullying’?
Above: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona Image Credit: Gage Skidmore

Ten years into its existence, the social media platform is struggling more than ever with trolls, hate speech, and even terrorist organizations. Executives have been more aggressive against groups like ISIS, and the service has banned some notable trolls.

But now it’s facing perhaps one of its toughest calls ever:

Is President-elect Donald Trump violating Twitter’s terms of service? And if so, what (if anything) is Twitter prepared to do about it?

The questions have arisen in the wake of a New York Times story this week about the impact of Trump’s tweets on a union leader in Indiana. The headline is headshaking on its own: “Trump as Cyberbully in Chief? Twitter Attack on Union Boss Draws Fire”.

His target was Chuck Jones, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, who has been mildly critical of Trump’s boasts about how many jobs he saved with his deal with Carrier of Indiana. In response, Trump tweeted:

The result, according to the Times:

  • Mr. Trump’s message to his 17 million Twitter followers set off threats and other harassing calls to Mr. Jones. One caller left five one-minute messages, and two secretaries answering phones at the local’s headquarters have been similarly swamped.

A conservative and an academic made clear what they thought of Trump’s tweets and the result:

  • “When you attack a man for living an ordinary life in an ordinary job, it is bullying,” said Nicolle Wallace, who was communications director for President George W. Bush and a top strategist to other Republicans. “It is cyberbullying. This is a strategy to bully somebody who dissents. That’s what is dark and disturbing.”
  • Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, called the verbal attack unprecedented and added: “It’s beneath the dignity of the office. He doesn’t seem to understand that.”
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