President Donald Trump raged against Twitter in recent weeks when Twitter flagged two of his tweets—one for false claims about mail-in ballots and another for glorifying violence against protesters.
Though Trump was livid and took the private company's actions to be suppression of his free speech, Twitter users were happy to see the site finally holding the President accountable for his social media antics.
On Wednesday, however, Twitter drew a line.
Trump posted a baseless conspiracy theory about Martin Gugino—a 75 year old peace activist who was shoved by police officers in tactical gear. A disturbing video showed Gugino fall to the ground and begin bleeding from his ear. The officers who pushed him kept walking.
Gugino remains in the hospital today.
The President broadcasted to his millions of followers speculation that Gugino was an "ANTIFA provocateur" secretly looking to disable police equipment.
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after… https://t.co/aFgYc1MCfD— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1591706079.0
Upon further inspection, the President appeared to be repeating speculation broadcast from a Kremlin-paid reporter, which originated from an anonymous internet account.
The President has baselessly classified Antifa as a terrorist organization (it's not terrorist, nor is it an official organization), and many of his supporters subsequently believe Antifa "members" are terrorists.
Trump's tweet has put Gugino in danger, and many are calling for the tweet to be flagged in a similar manner as Trump's tweets about protestors and mail-in voting.
Twitter's reasoning for refusing to do so was...questionable, according to a report from the Washington Post:
"That question mark at the end [of Trump's tweet] was key. As pressure mounted on the platform to once again police Trump's speech, Twitter ultimately determined this particular tweet doesn't violate its policies and took no action. In an email sent to me, the company noted Trump's tweet was speculative."
Former Obama Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu mused about the punctuation.
Twitter says Trump's lies about Martin Gugino can't be taken down because he used a question mark in his tweet. Tha… https://t.co/Lx2TsupSfp— Chris Lu (@Chris Lu)1591816746.0
He challenged his supporters to put Twitter's policy to the test.
@ChrisLu44 Putin owns Trump?— Mariana Blanca@LaLLaronaCorona (@Mariana Blanca@LaLLaronaCorona)1591818622.0
@ChrisLu44 So Trump has dementia and Ivanka is covering for it?? Just asking for a friend. He also sent the looter… https://t.co/mZ9O6RZOjx— Kim (@Kim)1591819737.0
@ChrisLu44 Since *trump held a bible upside down for a photo op, does that make him the Antichrist? https://t.co/OfaoSu3GmS— Pink Iguana 🌊 (@Pink Iguana 🌊)1591817813.0
@ChrisLu44 It's been said by many many people that Donald wears Depends?— Bruce Sanders (@Bruce Sanders)1591820183.0
@ChrisLu44 Trump should be put behind bars?— Brian Drury (@Brian Drury)1591817745.0
As the Post points out, Trump often uses question marks to spread baseless or outright false claims with the plausible deniability of just asking a question.
It's the defense his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, used for the claim about Gugino, assuring that Trump was simply asking questions and expressed no stance on whether or not it was true.
"The president was raising questions based on a report that he saw. They're questions that need to be asked. Every case, we can't jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play."
People are calling out the Trump administration for spreading misinformation.
@realDonaldTrump @OANN #MartinGugino is a peace activist and volunteer with the Catholic Worker movement. Why sprea… https://t.co/dDYIM12YwH— James Martin, SJ (@James Martin, SJ)1591710689.0
@realDonaldTrump *This tweet is completely irresponsible. *Martin Gugino is a long-time peace activist who has cam… https://t.co/9MzYfHIir0— Jim Roberts (@Jim Roberts)1591710099.0
@realDonaldTrump @OANN This tweet is pure propaganda.— Scott Dworkin (@Scott Dworkin)1591706406.0