Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Why Twitter won't ban Trump

Published:Friday | July 28, 2017 | 7:00 AM

Twitter has made it clear that it won't ban Donald Trump from its service, whether the president follows its rules against harassment or not.

That's no surprise: The president's tweets draw attention to the struggling service, even if tweets mocking reporters and rivals undercut Twitter's stated commitment to make the service a welcoming place.

The company has been cracking down on accounts that violate its terms, and Trump's critics say he has broken Twitter's rules multiple times.

Calls for Trump ban

Calls to ban Trump from Twitter, largely by liberal activists, writers and Twitter users, sounded even before he became president. They were renewed recently when the president posted a mock video of him 'body slamming' a man whose face was covered by the CNN logo. Groups such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press condemned the video as a threat against journalists (a White House aide said at the time that the tweet should not be seen as a threat).

Twitter does ban harassment and hateful conduct, but there is a lot of wiggle room as to what constitutes such behaviour. For instance, though it may be crude to tweet that a TV host was "bleeding badly from a facelift," they are, at best, in a gray area when it comes to violating Twitter terms.

When asked about Trump, Twitter says it doesn't comment on individual accounts. But CEO Jack Dorsey told NBC in May that it's "really important to hear directly from leadership" to hold people accountable and have conversations out in the open, not behind closed doors.

It also makes business sense: Trump's tweets are constantly in headlines, calling attention to Twitter and, ideally, getting more users to sign up.

For now, it doesn't appear to be helping. On Thursday, Twitter said its monthly average user base in the April-June quarter grew five per cent from the previous year to 328 million, but it was unchanged from the previous quarter. Twitter's stock fell more than nine per cent to $17.75 in pre-market trading Thursday after the numbers came out.

Twitter has never turned a profit. On Thursday, the San Francisco-based company reported a second-quarter loss of $116 million, or 16 cents per share, compared with a loss of $107 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue declined five per cent to $574 million from $602 million, inching past Wall Street's muted expectations.

- AP