“After multiple appeals from affected users and Leader McConnell’s team confirming their intent to highlight the threats for public discussion, we have reviewed this case more closely,” Twitter said in a statement on Friday. “Going forward, the video will be visible on the service with a sensitive media interstitial and only in cases where the Tweet content does not otherwise violate the Twitter Rules.”
Kevin Golden, McConnell’s campaign manager, said in a statement on Friday that the campaign was glad to see its account unlocked.
“It shouldn’t have taken an avalanche of outrage from across the country to stop Silicon Valley from launching an effort to silence conservatives like the Majority Leader of the United States Senate in the first place,” Golden said. “We look forward to learning more about what steps Twitter will take to ensure that this egregious suppression campaign never happens again.”
Several Twitter users, including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account, were temporarily locked out of their accounts for Tweeting a video that violated our abusive behavior policy.— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) August 9, 2019
Twitter’s about-face on McConnell’s account is a test of how it will implement its new policy of labeling tweets that go against its conduct guidelines.
Twitter said an interstitial would appear warning that the video post contains “sensitive material” for all users who have the default setting of not seeing sensitive media. (Users who have selected to see sensitive media see no interstitial, Twitter said.)
The video post on the Team Mitch Twitter page was captioned: “Last night, an angry left-wing mob of Amy McGrath supporters stormed Senator McConnell’s Louisville home screaming obscenities and hoping someone would ‘just stab the m----- f----- in the heart.’”
A woman heard on the video using the profanity was identified by the Louisville Courier-Journal as Chanelle Helm, a Black Lives Matter leader in Louisville.
Someone else yells, “Die!” Other obscenities in the video are bleeped out.
President Trump and other conservatives have scrutinized Twitter’s interactions with politicians’ accounts, accusing the platform of anti-conservative bias. Twitter has stressed its political neutrality, but an executive told The Washington Post in March that the company was exploring how to annotate tweets that are “offensive” but still in the public interest, regardless of political affiliation.
Golden said in a statement Wednesday that Twitter had told the Team Mitch account that it would remain locked until it deleted the video.
The freeze prompted a backlash by Trump’s campaign and GOP groups after the hashtag #MassacreMitch trended on Twitter the same day the Team Mitch account was suspended. Critics of McConnell have blamed him for blocking stricter gun control laws in the wake of back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio last weekend.
McConnell said in a radio interview Thursday with Louisville-based WHAS that his campaign was in a “major war” with Twitter.
“The point we wanted to make is: Twitter’s perfectly fine with carrying #MassacreMitch, which is obviously an invitation to violence,” McConnell said. “But when those kind of words are directed at me, they shut us down and locked our account down.”
Clarification: Twitter on Friday initially attributed the absence of the interstitial on some accounts to “a cache issue.” The company later said the absence was due to account settings regarding sensitive media.