Twitter under pressure over Donald Trump retweets

Twitter has come under renewed pressure over extremist content after Donald Trump shared videos posted by a far-right figurehead.

MPs have raised the issue in the British Parliament after the US President retweeted Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who has a verified account on the social network.

Twitter has halted its process of verifying accounts, saying it was perceived as an endorsement, and said it was reviewing accounts with a blue tick, a symbol to mark accounts as genuine.

The network removed blue ticks from the accounts of far-right figures including English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and American white nationalist Richard Spencer after a backlash over the verification of Jason Kessler, the US far-right figure who organised the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville at which counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed in August.

A Twitter spokesman said it would remove verification from accounts that did not meet its guidelines but declined to comment on the verification of Ms Fransen's account, which has seen a jump in followers of nearly 25,000 since Wednesday afternoon.

Labour MP Stephen Doughty, in raising the issue of online extremism in Parliament on Thursday, called on the British government to tackle extreme content online and criticised the network.

He said: "Can the Home Secretary confirm when she and the government will take tough action, which I support her in her efforts on, on the social media companies. We have had no response from Twitter - a typically irresponsible attitude."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd responded that the British government had taken the issue "extremely seriously" and acted to ban right-wing terror group National Action.

She added: "He asks particularly what else we are doing with online companies to ensure the internet is free of dangerous material and he will no doubt know the UK has been leading in this area.

"The internet companies are taking action - Twitter now takes down 95% of the illegal material through using artificial intelligence.

"The fact that they are now engaging in machine learning to get this hate taken down is an incredibly important investment and breakthrough to ensure that more is taken down. But we are not complacent - there's more that needs to be done."

Tory former minister Tim Loughton even suggested Donald Trump's account could lose its blue tick, saying that Twitter should "have no hesitance in taking down the Twitter account of the First Citizen of the US, as it would any other citizen of the world who peddles such hate crime".

Mr Trump's ally, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, dismissed the significance of the retweets, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "People retweeting videos are not researching the bios of the people who sent the video."

A Twitter spokesman said: "We are continuing a comprehensive review of our verification policies, including an initial review of verified accounts.

"We will remove verification from accounts whose behaviour does not fall within these new guidelines. We will continue to review and take action as we work towards a new programme we are proud of."

"We take action against content that violates our terms of service, as appropriate.

"As our Help Centre notes: '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.

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


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