White House Says Twitter Lets Terrorists and Dictators 'Abuse Its Platform,' as Ted Cruz Calls for Criminal Investigation Into Site

Twitter is facing backlash from the White House and Republican lawmakers after the social media site warned that one of President Donald Trump's posts violated its rules about glorifying violence.

On Friday morning, the White House account fired off a series of tweets defending Trump and criticizing Twitter for allowing "terrorists, dictators and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform."

This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, @Twitter has determined that it will allow terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform. pic.twitter.com/5Qi0m66Vnh

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 29, 2020

The White House tweet included a photo to a previous social media post from Iranian leader Ali Khamenei, saying that his tweet had also glorified violence but wasn't flagged by the site.

In response to the White House's tweet, a Twitter spokesperson pointed to an October 2019 blog post on the company's approach to world leaders. The post said that "direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules."

The president's tweet was about the riots in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd. Floyd died on Monday after a white police officer pinned him to the ground for several minutes. Floyd, who is black, can be heard in a video of the arrest saying "I can't breathe." Demonstrations began in the state on Tuesday as protesters seek criminal charges against the police officers involved in Floyd's arrest.

On Thursday night, Trump tweeted that "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd," and "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."

Twitter's official communications handle said that the president's post "violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today."

A warning label was placed on the president's tweet. The label conceals the tweet by default on a user's timeline and will only let a user read the post by manually opening it.

The White House came to Trump's defense on Friday morning by retweeting his controversial post with the caption: "The President did not glorify violence. He clearly condemned it." Again, the president's tweet was accompanied by the same warning label.

twitter flags trump tweet glorifying violence
In this photo illustration, a Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile phone with President Trump's Twitter page shown in the background on May 27, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Twitter flagged a recent post from President Trump's account, saying it violated the site's rules about glorifying violence. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

The tweets from the White House account came just after it was reported that Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was calling for a criminal investigation into the social media company.

Cruz sent a letter to the Justice Department and the Treasury Department on Friday encouraging them to launch a probe into whether Twitter is violating U.S. sanctions against Iran by allowing the nation's leaders to have active accounts.

"I believe that the primary goal of (the International Emergency Economic Powers Act) and sanctions law should be to change the behavior of designated individuals and regimes, not American companies," Cruz wrote."But when a company willfully and openly violates the law after receiving formal notice that it is unlawfully supporting designated individuals, the federal government should take action.

Newsweek reached out to Twitter for a response to Cruz's call for an investigation, but the company had no comment.