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President Trump’s Tweets Attacking Congresswomen Didn’t Violate Twitter’s Policy, CFO Says

July 17, 2019, 12:37 AM UTC

One of Twitter’s top executives said President Donald Trump’s controversial tweet attacking a group of diverse congresswomen a couple of days ago was not against the rules.

“If you see something on Twitter, it means it didn’t violate our policy,” Ned Segal, Twitter’s chief financial officer, said in response to how Twitter handled the president’s tweet. 

Segal made his comments during Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference on Tuesday in Aspen, Colo. He was referring to Trump’s tweet on July 14 in which he told a group of Democratic congresswomen to go back to where they came from. 

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came?” he tweeted. Response calling the president’s rhetoric racist came shortly after, and on Tuesday, the House voted to officially condemn the comments. The president has defended himself, claiming that he doesn’t “have a racist bone in (his) body.”

The tweet came two weeks after Twitter announced a policy update that would protect users from offensive tweets from public figures. Previously, the company said it would not filter or remove those tweets because they were a matter of holding officials publicly accountable. 

When pressed about why Trump’s tweets didn’t violate Twitter’s policy, Segal skirted directly answering the question.

“We have a really strong policy team, and they make those decisions not the CFO,” he said. 

Twitter has struggled with managing bullying and harassment and the spread of harmful content on its platform for years. It, like Facebook, has come under fire for allowing extremists to openly post offensive views and users to attack others on the social network. Twitter has traditionally taken a hands-off approach but has recently made a few moves to aid with the problem—including banning public figures who regularly violated the company’s policies. 

At the Fortune conference, Segal said that Twitter considers safety a high priority. He said making users feel safe and that they can trust Twitter is vital to attracting new users. With new users come additional advertisers, which provide Twitter’s main source of revenue, which has been rising in recent quarters.

“We’re pretty confident the way to make more money is get the rest of the world to use Twitter,” he said.

Ronald Josey, analyst at JMP Securities, said Twitter is showing positive signs of progress. “Bottom line is, with stabilized user base, they’ll be able to attract ad dollars,” Josey said. “That to me is the key thing.”

To that end, Twitter has dedicated resources, time, and people to work on the problem. The company expanded its health team and applied artificial intelligence to better handle the growing issue of hate speech and harmful content. 

“We’re always think about our policies and evolving them,” he said.

Brent Thill, analyst at Jefferies, said Twitter’s first quarter was “solid” and called it a “successful turnaround story,” in his latest note. The growth in users and revenue suggests “that investments in the health/safety of the platform were successful,” he wrote in a June 17 note.

In June, Twitter rewrote its policies to be clearer to the user. It also opted to delete tweets that use language that “dehumanizes” religious groups. 

But despite the company’s efforts, user-reported policy violations jumped 19% during the second half of 2018, while the number of accounts punished dropped, according to Twitter’s latest numbers.

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