CNN’s Brian Stelter asked Twitter on Tuesday whether President Donald Trump’s tweet threatening North Korea with his “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear button violated the social media network’s terms of service.
Calling Trump’s tweet evidence of “madness,” the host of Reliable Sources clearly hoped not only to obtain an answer to a question, but to see Trump suspended or removed from Twitter.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Stelter and other Trump-haters cited Twitter’s rule against violent threats: “You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of people.”
They were disappointed when Twitter said Trump’s tweet was “too vague” a threat to qualify for punishment.
Although nuclear war qualifies as the most extreme violence on the planet, Twitter was quick to respond: “We hold all accounts to the same Rules, and consider a number of factors when assessing whether Tweets violate our Rules.” But Twitter then acknowledged that a carve-out exists regarding government and military issues and that the site would also consider the “newsworthiness” of any public statement.
It is not clear what Twitter rule would prevent a head of state from tweeting that he intends to defend his country against an external threat. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had said on New Year’s Day that “the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office,” and said his missiles could hit any target in the United States.
Economic considerations may also have been at stake in Twitter’s decision.: President Trump’s tweeting is estimated to have added $3.5 billion to the value of Twitter.
President Trump, with 45,954,600 followers, has the 20th-largest number of Twitter followers. He also has tweeted a “YUUGE” 36,698 times since joining the social media platform in 2009. Trump’s provocative style also makes him the world’s most tweeted leader.
Wall Street stock analyst James Cakmak at Monness Crespi Hardt told Fortune in August, “There is no better free advertising in the world than the president of the United States.” He estimates that Trump’s use pumps up Twitter’s stock market value by about $3.5 billion, to $17.8 billion,
Twitter cannot afford to lose Trump. The site claims to have 330 million registered users, but has only added a lackluster 25 million users in the last 2 years, according to Statista. Twitter’s daily user numbers are even worse, at only 125 million, 30 percent less than Snapchat.
The highly influential ARS Technica website put Twitter on its Deathwatch List last year, and renewed the ranking this year. They compare Facebook, which reports $27 billion in revenue and $10 billion in profit, to Twitter, which at best brings in “a tenth of that revenue and loses hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”
According to Geopolitical Futures (GPF) senior analyst Jacob L. Shapiro, “North Korea is a case study in how a geographically weak country can turn weakness into strength.” GPF views Kim Jong Un’s “bellicose threats and strange diplomatic overtures” as an effort to build distrust between the United States and South Korea.
Since South Korea fears being a nuclear battleground, GPF sees China as potentially the biggest winner and Japan as the biggest loser if North Korea can humiliate America and its allies in Asia.
But Twitter gives President Trump a no-cost vehicle to strike back at so-called Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un — without having to start a nuclear war.