Twitter—which has, whether it likes it or not, become one of our society’s go-to resources for the public processing of a rapidly escalating pile of incoming generational traumas—has issued multiple statements today, making it clear that the social media company won’t allow its users to express any desires they might be feeling to see Donald Trump die from the COVID-19 infection that the White House announced he was diagnosed with last night. Per Motherboard (and later tweets directly from the @TwitterComms account), the company is specifically citing a policy it enacted back in April, stating that, “Content that wishes, hopes, or expresses a desire for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against an individual is against our rules.” Although it was previously reported that users who violated this rule would find their accounts suspended, the company has stated that, while any such tweets will have to be deleted, the suspensions aren’t automatic.
As Motherboard notes, Twitter’s policy on this deviates from Facebook’s, which applies variable standards depending on the notoriety and public-figure-ness of the person involved. (Arguing that there’s a difference between telling a private citizen who you know that you want them to die, versus speaking more abstractly about seeing a national figure get taken down by a crisis he’s done so much to encourage, or at least fail to stop.)
The response online has been about as lividly disbelieving as you might expect, given how much of the Big Twitter Wheel is turned by the twin forces of spite and schadenfreude—and how much so many people hold Trump accountable for the 200,000-plus American COVID deaths. The extraction of the most meager possible amounts of joy from last night’s announcement feels like the teensiest of silver linings available to folks. For what it’s worth, Twitter says it’s prioritizing getting rid of posts it sees as a “clear call to action that could potentially cause real-world harm.” (Which would entail, what, starting a GoFundMe to make sure the virus has all the resources it needs to do what it’s going to do?) Still, it’s depressingly on-brand for Twitter—which feels like it’s gone out of its way over the years to maintain its status as Trump’s de facto press statement distributor—to emphasize how this is the clear and present worry when it comes to things people are saying about Donald Trump, and not the mountains upon mountains of harassment and abuse the man’s supporters have heaped upon women and minorities over the last four years.
Anyway: Donald Trump has COVID-19. That’s all we can say about that.