The latest furor erupted on Tuesday: Trump's retweet of a cartoon person with a CNN logo over its head being hit by a train while attempting to hold it back. The train has Trump's name on it; the tweet read, "Nothing can stop the #TrumpTrain!!" This wasn't the first time the president has suggested violence against CNN on Twitter, but it was a particularly shocking choice of image mere days after an attacker drove into a crowd of counter-protesters at a white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In June, Minnesota Congressman and Democratic National Committee Deputy Chair Keith Ellison likened the president to a "social media bully" and said his account should be taken down. An online petition with 72,000 signatures calls for Trump to be banned from Twitter. A recent poll showed that 67 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's Twitter use.
Engadget compared all the tweets from Trump's personal Twitter account in his almost seven months in office -- over 1,200 tweets in total -- to the Twitter rules that govern who gets banned online. We wanted to see if calls for Trump to get booted from Twitter were valid.
The results, according to our analysis and the input of online-censorship experts, is that many of Trump's tweets since taking office may have been incendiary or untrue, but there were no clear-cut cases for banishment, based on how Twitter has enforced its rules so far. "Based on the rules alone, some of his tweets could constitute harassment. But I think based on the interpretation of those rules, not necessarily," said Jillian York, co-founder of Onlinecensorship.org, a project that tracks takedowns on various social media platforms.
When Twitter has suspended high-profile accounts, it's typically been for more cut-and-dried offenses: posting racial epithets (Azealia Banks), threatening physical violence (Chuck Johnson), directly inciting harassment (Milo Yiannopoulos) or uploading revenge porn (George Zimmerman).
Since becoming president, Trump has instead occupied a gray area. And Twitter's rules leave plenty of gray.
Before his election, for instance, Trump tweeted, "Incompetent Hillary, despite the horrible attack in Brussels today, wants borders to be weak and open-and let the Muslims flow in. No way!" This could be interpreted as hateful conduct.
Since January, he has avoided directly calling out religious or ethnic groups, giving him plausible deniability, even if his meaning remains unmistakable. For example, in reference to a travel ban on citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, Trump wrote, "Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision."
To York, the tweet would not be cause for dismissal, if only because it doesn't contain threats of physical violence. "Generally I think that Twitter errs on the side of only taking down violent incitement of hateful speech," she said.
In addition to hateful conduct, Twitter's terms also forbid "behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user's voice."
Trump has called former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning a "traitor" and referred to The New York Times, CNN and NBC News as "the enemy of the American people." He has used insults like "Crooked Hillary" for his rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, and "dumb as a rock Mika" for MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski.
Trump uses tweeted insults as a political tool. Last August, angered about a segment on Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly's show, he told her, "I almost unleashed my beautiful Twitter account against you," according to Kelly in her recent memoir.
However, it's possible Twitter permits these attacks because politicians, activists and media institutions are public figures who are open to public criticism.
"Whether you're the president, a celebrity or Kim Kardashian, if you're in the public eye the kinds of things you are legitimately able to complain about are going to be narrower and narrower," said Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor and vice president of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative who sits on Twitter's Trust and Safety Council.
Attacks on private citizens may be viewed differently. Last December, Trump tweeted insults about Indiana Union leader Chuck Jones that led to telephoned threats. "Nothing that says they're gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids," Jones told MSNBC. "We know what car you drive. Things along those lines."
While caustic attacks on private civilians could constitute harassment, Trump has refrained from them since taking office.