Twitter has forced a Democratic candidate to delete a tweet from August, saying that it violated the social media platform’s rules against voter suppression, that urged President Trump’s followers to head to the polls the day after November’s general election.
The social media company’s actions come after it has cracked down on false or misleading statements on the platform, including those made by Trump and his campaign staff, and amid criticism from many Republicans that Twitter discriminates against conservatives.
Twitter told the campaign of Democrat Elizabeth Hernandez, who is facing GOP Rep. Kevin Brady for his seat in Texas’ 8th Congressional District, that its Aug. 18 tweet was in violation of its policies.
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Hernandez’s official campaign account had been replying to a message from a Twitter used who wished her luck and bemoaned that her relatives in Texas were Trump supporters.
“Thank you! And remind all of your Trump supporting relatives to vote on Wednesday, November 4! (Since they’re Trump supporters, they might fall for it. Just saying….)” the Hernandez campaign replied, along with a laughing emoji.
Twitter said it forbids “posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process.”
The tweet had been up for two weeks before it was flagged and Twitter said it would prevent Hernandez’s campaign from accessing their account until the tweet was removed.
The Texas Democrat’s campaign said that a staffer had made the reply in jest, but it agreed to take down the tweet.
“In a jovial exchange with supporters on Twitter, one of our campaign staff was a little too loose with their words. The emoji at the end of the tweet indicates that the tweet was made in jest, not intended to actually mislead anyone,” spokesperson Christopher Phipps said in an email to Politico. “But when Twitter brought the tweet to our attention, we took action to take it down, out of an abundance of caution.”
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The move by Twitter goes against the narrative pushed by Trump and other Republicans that Twitter favors Democrats and left-leaning policies.
In May, Trump signed an executive order that interprets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) as not providing statutory liability protections for tech companies that engage in censorship and political conduct.
The president’s order, which also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users’ political views, came just two days after Twitter took the unprecedented step of slapping a “misleading” warning label on two of Trump’s tweets concerning his claims about the risk of fraud with mail-in balloting.
The company has also flagged tweets from the president for allegedly “glorifying violence” during the outbreak of the George Floyd protests.